Raytheon Company is a leader in providing technology and innovation for defense, civil government, and cybersecurity solutions. Raytheon’s Intelligence, Information and Services business's Standard Terminal Automation Modernization and Replacement System (STARS) team is responsible for sustaining, enhancing, and deploying STARS as part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) NextGen modernization of the U.S. air traffic control system, managed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Defense (DoD). STARS replaces the legacy Automated Radar Terminal System (ARTS) with a single automation platform, under the Terminal Automation Modernization and Replacement (TAMR) initiative. To date, Raytheon has deployed 237 systems to FAA, 107 systems to DoD to more than 600 locations.
Because of the close partnership with NATCA, the FAA, and Raytheon, deployment of STARS across the National Airspace System (NAS) has been successful and effective.
Raytheon’s Air Traffic Systems Automation Director Jack McAuley manages all of the organization’s automation programs including STARS, NextGen Weather Processor (NWP), SWIM Terminal Data Distribution System (STDDS) and international ATC automation in multiple countries — all of Raytheon’s forward-thinking initiatives that integrate with NATCA and the work of aviation safety professionals.
“We consistently interact with all of the NATCA safety and technology reps, and we have a good relationship with NATCA Program Management Organization (PMO) Rep Jeff Woods,” McAuley said. “It’s important to us to know early what is important for operations and the controllers who use our technology. Technology isn’t there for technology’s sake. It’s there to support the operation.”
McAuley and Raytheon Transportation and Support Services Intelligence Executive Technical Director Rachel Jackson say user input is the cornerstone to successful development and implementation of any new technology.
“If NATCA didn’t support it, we probably wouldn’t bother with it,” McAuley said. “I was in the FAA in the early STARS days, as a member of the STARS Computer Human Interface working group and as program manager for first Full-Service Level STARS at Philadelphia ATCT/TRACON. Without NATCA input we would not have been successful and be here today. I’ve valued that ever since.”
“I’m not an engineer or a controller, but I’ve learned the most about this business by being there for equipment transitions and implementations,” Jackson said. “NATCA makes these transitions more structured, and is also able to work out and prioritize, not only capabilities, but also what the future ought to look like.
“We see NATCA as part of the team. We need the users to be part of the process. You are no less important than anything you do day to day.”
Exhibiting at CFS in 2018, Raytheon brought a demo of the Multifunction Automation Rehosting System (MARS). The system consists of a large screen, which integrates the STARS display and can include additional capabilities such as an Information Display System (IDS), advanced weather, electronic flight strips, and everything else a controller might need on one display.
“We demonstrated it, and based on the feedback we received at last year’s CFS and other conferences, we made it more interactive, with a better keyboard and touchscreen,” McAuley said. “We collected more than 50 comments from NATCA controllers that helped us make it better. Comments and suggestions came from both smaller and larger facility controllers, and that’s really good because we got a variety of domain expertise.
“NATCA did a really smart thing by growing CFS to be as big and broad as it is today. The value for the membership is huge, the speakers are amazing, the format’s good, and it just flows perfectly. You’re not overburdened by vendors trying to sell you something. For us, it’s about us finding out from the end-user community what’s really good.”
CFS presents NATCA’s industry partners like Raytheon with an opportunity to participate in national-level discussions about aviation safety, integration of new technologies, and what’s on the horizon.
“I always enjoy CFS because of getting the opportunity to work with NATCA’s safety committee,” McAuley said. “You’re always balancing efficiency with safety. That ability to communicate and talk to the safety committee is invaluable, not just about new things, but about enhancements of existing systems and how we can improve what we have.”
Speaking to the 2019 CFS conference theme and NATCA’s ongoing effort to change the way the workforce perceives training, Jackson and McAuley agree that Every Day is a Training Day, and that consistent, incremental training is as important as initial developmental training.
McAuley said, “There are a lot of different ways to learn, especially for newer generations. When it comes to training, it’s not one solution fits all. I look forward to seeing implementation of more interactive training methods.”
“I love that idea because it’s true that you never stop learning. Things are changing constantly,” Jackson said. “It’s no secret that air traffic controllers are competitive, so being driven to be excellent all the time is a great way to motivate learning.”
McAuley agreed. “Things are changing all the time and so it needs to be part of my makeup that ‘Today I’m going to learn whatever the new thing is today.’ That’s also how CFS helps NATCA members,” he said. “They are hearing things at a more national policy level. The tyranny of the urgent is moving this airplane from here to here, and spending this time thinking very broadly gives a lot of perspective.”
In line with that broader perspective, NATCA’s industry partners value the savings from user involvement as a huge benefit of collaborating with the FAA and NATCA on development of new technologies, McAuley explained.
“For everything we do, bringing in a rep from NATCA or PASS to help us from the beginning, for the money we spend up front by having a rep to help us, it pays dividends,” he said. “We went through a period where controllers were not allowed to be involved. And it cost exponentially more in time and changes. The NATCA rep program is one of the best things that ever happened.
“I wish we could have more NATCA reps. You sit a user next to a developer and you can create the best thing ever and get it to test quicker. There is nothing better than sitting a user along with the developer. ‘Can you make it do this?’ ‘tap tap’ ‘Yeah, that’s what I meant!’”
In addition to the advantage of working with NATCA reps directly on projects, Raytheon has admiration for the leadership of the Union.
“In the leadership of NATCA, you’ve got people who want to work toward the same goals and objectives,” McAuley said. “They are so respected by their peers in the aviation business. People want them at the table not only because they recognize the huge force they represent, but also because they bring a reasoned approach to the priorities. They bring such a wealth of background and experience it’s a pleasure working with the NATCA leadership team.”