ARS seen as answer for `reasonable' program goals

The Federal Aviation Administration hopes it has solved a decade-old problem with defining modernization requirements by creating the Air Traffic System Requirements Service abbreviated ARS and putting at its head a former air traffic controller.

Neil Planzer director of ARS believes the new organization addresses a major point of failure in the FAA's past modernization efforts: the ability to translate user requirements into reasonable program objectives.Functionally ARS consolidates in one organization activities formerly carried out by Airway Facilities which operates the National Airspace System and Air Traffic which runs acquisitions.

"What this organization will do is take two separate requirements processes and put them together " Planzer said.

This process either did not exist or did not work with the Advanced Automation System the multibillion-dollar modernization program started in the mid-1980s that was running billions over budget and years over schedule when the FAA began revamping it two years ago.

AAS as it was conceived was technologically at the cutting edge but "it was not actually a system they were sure they could deliver " Planzer said. The problems only multiplied as the specifications grew more complex until he said the program "collapsed under the weight of its own requirements."

As the FAA moves ahead with modernization - AAS has been broken down into smaller individual components -ARS is expected to ensure history does not repeat itself.

"You have to have a system that takes operational concepts and develops valid requirements that can be managed and delivered within a budget that is not always growing " Planzer said.

Planzer brings a useful perspective to his position having joined FAA headquarters in 1988 - the year AAS was awarded - after spending more than a dozen years in air traffic control. He was previously director of air traffic plans and requirements and program manager of the terminal component of AAS.

Since joining FAA HQ "I have spent a lot of time learning the air traffic system and the requirements process - both technical process and the budget process " Planzer said. "What I have been having to understand over the past 10 years is how that air traffic system fits into the overall aviation system."

The aviation industry agrees that the requirements process will play a vital role as modernization proceeds."In these times of tight funding constraints we are faced with the issue of the FAA [understanding] what they think are their needs and what their customers' needs are " said Ray Hilton director of air traffic management at the Air Transport Association Washington D.C.

However the association is concerned that the FAA has identified the air traffic controller as its primary customer Hilton said. "Some people will say the customer is the air traffic controller but we don't agree: The customer is [whoever uses] the National Airspace System " and that is the airline industry.

However as long as the FAA makes an effort to involve the airlines in the process the basic requirements process model still holds.

"In most cases after we have gone through all this argument about the real requirements we find the air traffic controllers' and our needs are not that different " Hilton said.

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