FAA charts new course for STARS

The Federal Aviation Administration today announced plans to field early versions of a new air traffic control system to a few smaller airports while delaying full rollout of the $1 billion project until the final system is ready for use.

The FAA said it still intends to continue development of the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System, which was launched in 1997 to replace computer systems and controller workstations in terminal radar approach control (Tracon) facilities across the country. Tracons control air traffic within a 50-mile radius of airports.

But the FAA said the first system will go into the Syracuse, N.Y., and the El Paso, Texas, Tracons beginning late this year, and those airports will receive an early version of STARS. That early version combines the STARS controller workstation and color display with the existing computer system.

The FAA will install the full system across the country when the system is ready to handle the needs of higher-level facilities, the agency said. The first complete STARS system is being tested at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and is scheduled to be operational in April 2000.

As a stop-gap measure, three existing facilities and two currently under construction will receive off-the-shelf color controller displays that are fully compatible with the existing computer systems.

These displays, developed by Lockheed Martin Corp., will be installed in the New York and Ronald Reagan Washington National Tracons in the summer and fall of 2000. The FAA is developing schedules for the displays at the Dallas/Fort Worth Tracon as well as the new Northern California and north Georgia Tracons.

The FAA originally planned to install the first system, an early version of STARS, at Reagan National in June 1998 but delayed delivery by nine months to give the agency and Raytheon Systems Co., the STARS prime contractor, an opportunity to work out design problems that concerned air traffic controllers and technicians.

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