FAA to buy off existing pacts for en route airspace

Budget cuts and a revised national airspace architecture forced the Federal Aviation Administration to cancel a large-scale systems integration contract opting instead to buy off existing governmentwide contracts.

In March the FAA canceled its Air Traffic Management System Development and Integration (ATMSDI) program estimated to be worth $250 million over seven years. The program would have combined under a single contract different efforts to develop prototype systems that help the FAA manage air traffic flow as it moves across the country and track planes in the national airspace. The Air Traffic Management Integrated Product Team was developing the systems.

The team directly supports the concept of free flight a revolutionary air traffic control concept that allows pilots to fly whatever route and at whatever altitude is best for existing conditions. The FAA will begin a two-year demonstration and evaluation of these so-called free-flight systems in 1999.

Delayed

The cancellation of ATMSDI started last year when the National Air Space (NAS) architecture group recommended delaying the development of some systems under ATMSDI until 2000 and 2001 said Bob Voss integrated-product team leader for air traffic management at the FAA.

The systems included a surface movement adviser a software tool that provides more information on when aircraft are landing and where they should taxi a dissent adviser a decision-support tool that allows aircraft and the controller to develop a landing plan and the Center Tracon Automation System (CTAS) which provides air traffic controllers better tools to track and guide planes.

The change in the NAS schedule combined with uncertainties about whether the FAA would receive the total funding for the ATMSDI program caused the agency to cancel the contract and look to the existing En Route Software Development and Support (ERSDS) II contract as the primary vehicle to fulfill its requirements Voss said.

ERSDS II a contract awarded to Computer Sciences Corp. about two years ago continues the development and maintenance of key software components of the FAA's modernization of the en route airspace including data link software and traffic management systems.

According to Joe Fields business development manager at CSC ERSDS II already has ATM requirements built into it and has an existing ceiling that would allow the FAA to do this work over the next few years. The FAA is already doing some of its ATM development work under CTAS also held by CSC.

Despite the schedule change the FAA intends to complete its development goals under ATMSDI. "As we get into using [ERSDS II] and get downstream we will know what the funding profile will be and if it makes sense to go out with another version of ATMSDI " Voss said.

"I believe all the things we intended to do under ATMSDI as far as specific functionality we will do in a matter of time. They are all good ideas that show the benefit of our prototyping " he said.

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