Posts Tagged ‘air traffic control’

ATC predictions from 25 years ago; Pilotless planes and empty control rooms

Friday, September 13th, 2013

There was a conference at the U.S. Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Mass., 25 years ago attended by representatives from Japan, Europe, the USSR (it was 1988, three years before the USSR dissolved) and the United States. They made predictions of what the future held. Let’s see how they did.

Tatiana Anodina of the USSR predicted a fully automatic system in which controllers would act as supervisors. We don’t seem to be moving that way. She also said the future system would be heavily dependent on satellites. Absolutely correct.

MIT professor Robert Simpson said the U.S. could lose its dominance of aviation manufacturing, and its monopoly on commercial air services, to Asian countries. That one remains an interesting prediction.

William Rouse of Search Technology said a computer he named CAL could instantly revamp the entire air traffic flow based on a flood of travelers, such as a sporting event in one city. He also said politicians delayed on their flight could address a banquet crowd from their seats (creating a new hell for fellow travelers). Fortunately those predictions failed, but a speaker late to a speech could combine Skype with onboard wi-fi. (Don’t tell them.)

Fred Singer of the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed unmanned supersonic freighters carrying 20-ton payloads at Mach 2 and 3 over the ocean. Command destruct capability, a switch that would blow up errant unmanned aircraft, might be necessary so the flights would be mostly over water. Cargo shippers probably wouldn’t like the odds, but unmanned aircraft are here, growing, and they aren’t over water.

Paul Muto of NEC Corp. of Japan said aircraft with satellite navigation would be cleared onto minimum time tracks, while aircraft using conventional navigation tools would still use airways. Ground-based navigation aids would be retained only as long as users want to pay for them. Sounds like he was on the right “track,” making the part about “paying for them” a little scary. But we have AOPA.  He also said, “We will not forsake our controllers. Both pilots and controllers will have their jobs.” Good call–so far.

A final thought: What if an unmanned aircraft that has been programmed to go one direction finds itself in conflict with an unmanned control room that wants it to alter course? Would there be a cyber argument leading to overheated circuits?

FAA says delays are awful

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

 I’m seeing a little gamesmanship out there. The FAA has laid off controllers thanks to budget sequestration, and isn’t shy about pointing out just how awful things are for travelers. Could the FAA be putting pressure on Congress to fix the budget? Just maybe? Here’s the FAA release:

“As a result of employee furloughs due to sequestration, the FAA is implementing traffic management initiatives at airports and facilities around the country. Travelers can expect to see a wide range of delays that will change throughout the day depending on staffing and weather related issues. For example, the FAA is experiencing staffing challenges at the New York and Los Angeles En Route Centers and at the Dallas-Ft. Worth and Las Vegas TRACONs. Controllers will space planes farther apart so they can manage traffic with current staff, which will lead to delays at airports including DFW, Las Vegas and LAX. The FAA also expects delays at Newark and LaGuardia because of weather and winds.

“The FAA will continue to work with the airlines throughout the day to try and minimize delays for travelers. We encourage all travelers to check their flight status and also to visit fly.faa.gov for the latest airport delay information.

“Yesterday more than 1,200 delays in the system were attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough. There were more than 1,400 additional delays as a result of weather and other factors.”

So do your job, public. Sound off about how steamed you are over the delays. After all, you’re part of the game. Personally, I don’t like games.