The Federal Aviation Administration announced last week it would spend $270 million to address longstanding complaints from air traffic controllers about the design of one of its major automation programs.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced last week it would spend $270
million to address long-standing complaints from air traffic controllers
about the design of one of its major automation programs.
The decision to modify the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement
System comes after two years of discussions by the FAA, STARS contractor
Raytheon Co., the air traffic controllers and air traffic systems specialists
about so-called "human factors" in the design of air traffic displays and
The STARS program, launched in 1997, will modernize the automation equipment
and displays at terminal radar approach control facilities, which manage
air traffic within a 50-mile radius of airports, and associated towers.
In the first year of the contract, air traffic controllers highlighted
nearly 100 problems that would make their displays difficult to view or
commands difficult to produce, said Bill Blackmer, director of safety and
technology for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
Congress told the FAA that the agency must meet with controllers and
technicians to address concerns such as:
* Menus that block the view of air traffic controllers' screens.
* Keyboards that require controllers to frequently look away from screens.
* An absence of audible alarms to indicate system errors.
STARS merely replaces the aging systems terminal controllers use today
with a modernized, faster system that still doesn't have the "bells and
whistles" that will save controllers' time, Blackmer said.
"Now, we need to sit down and look at what we can do to make life easier
for controllers, and that means dollars for airlines because [controllers]
will have more time" to maximize the airspace, Blackmer said.
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