As the largest government services firm by revenue, Leidos is a leader in providing solutions in information technology and more to solve some of the world's toughest challenges in defense, intelligence, homeland security, and health. Leidos air traffic control systems help the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) manage millions of passengers traveling through the world’s busiest and most complex airspace.
Leidos provides air traffic automation support for FAA NextGen and modernization projects across the National Airspace System (NAS) to include Enroute Automation Modernization (ERAM), Advanced Technologies & Oceanic Procedures (ATOP), Time Based Flow Management (TBFM) and Terminal Flight Data Management (TFDM).
ERAM processes flight and surveillance data, provides communications and generates display data for controllers. TBFM is a decision-support tool that will enable controllers to optimize spacing between aircraft and more accurately deliver aircraft to Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facilities.
NATCA recently named Aaron Rose (Northern California TRACON, NCT) as its new Article 114 Representative for TFDM. Rose has been NATCA’s TAMR Representative for the last several years and brings a vast amount of experience to the program, with both terminal and center background. He will be working closely with Leidos’s Senior Air Traffic Analyst Walt Cochran, who was a controller at Houston Center (ZHU) and Atlanta Center (ZTL), served on several FAA Contract teams, and served as FAA labor relations lead for air traffic. From the vantage point of their roles, Rose and Cochran have a clear view of the benefits of collaboration between NATCA, the FAA, and industry.
"Working collaboratively is the only way to produce the needed results to move the National Airspace System into the 21st century. Generating the best product for field facilities is our number one priority.” Rose stated.
“There hasn’t always been the level of collaboration we have today,” Cochran said. “It really is great to see that those people who are going to be using the product are helping to develop it. It makes implementation so much easier.”
Cochran works with Rose and numerous other NATCA Representatives to ensure those assisting Leidos with developing new products and technologies are from the frontline workforce, the ones who will actually use the new technology.
“If you’ve been helping to develop the product, you’re going to try really hard to make sure it works. You know you’ve got a lot of people depending on you,” Cochran said. “It’s great to see that everyone has come to the conclusion that even though collaboration can be expensive, and it’s hard to do, going back to fix a product that isn’t what people need is expensive, too. It’s better to get users involved in the front end, so that when we do field a new product, that it’s what they want and what they need.”
According to Rose, "The team that NATCA, the Agency, and Leidos have compiled to ensure TFDM is a first-rate product is unbelievable. In addition, the test team at the FAA Tech Center (in Atlantic City, N.J.) is first rate. Long hours in the labs coordinating with TBFM and TFMS are paying off. Solutions always present themselves when teamwork is foremost on the minds of those developing new software.”
At its exhibit booth at CFS, Leidos will host demonstrations of TFDM and TBFM for attendees to try out, play with, ask questions, and give feedback. Usually at CFS, Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) events, and other aviation exhibitions, NATCA Article 114 reps run the booths and demonstrations of new technologies, enabling industry experts to gather even more commentary from controllers.
“We get a lot of good feedback at CFS, especially from controllers,” Cochran said. “If controllers don’t like something, they’re going to tell you. They’re not going to keep it a secret.
“Besides controllers, engineers are probably the smartest people I’ve ever met. Collaboration helps us to invent solutions to problems much more effectively. It used to be that the government would give a company requirement, and the company's engineers would build what they thought the requirements meant. There wasn’t a lot of dialogue. A lot of times what they developed was not what was wanted or needed.”
To get a product right, the engineers have to have the mindset of a controller — but that’s often impossible. Instead, controllers can explain to engineers, “‘This is what this requirement means, this is what we need from this requirement,’” Cochran said. “It’s a unique skillset to be able to do that.”
In addition to its work on the U.S. National Airspace System, expertise from Leidos is used by international Air Navigation Service Providers in en route, terminal, surface, and oceanic air traffic control systems to improve the safety and efficiency of flight. Leidos Flight Service (https://www.1800wxbrief.com/Website/#!/) provides the general aviation community with weather, flight planning, and other services in the continental United States. Visit them at booth 206 for more information.