Contract accounts for users in air traffic control

The human factor will be addressed under a $270 million contract modification

to a new air traffic control automation system, Raytheon Co. announced Wednesday.

The change in the Federal Aviation Administration's contract with Raytheon

for the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System is the result of

two years of work by Raytheon, the FAA, the National Air Traffic Controllers

Association and the Professional Airways Systems Specialists to define desired

modifications, according to a statement from Raytheon (Lexington, Mass.).

In 1997, air traffic controllers complained that the system's design

was confusing, distracting and would make air travel unsafe.

As a result, 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 modernizes the automation equipment and displays at terminal radar

approach control facilities and associated towers by replacing aging controller

workstations, mappers and network infrastructure. Terminal radar approach

control facilities manage air traffic within a 50-mile radius of airports.

Early versions of STARS have been deployed at terminal radar approach

control facilities in Syracuse, N.Y., and El Paso, Texas. Raytheon is under

contract to develop and install STARS at 173 FAA terminal area control facilities

and up to 199 military radar approach control facilities and associated

air traffic control towers during the next decade.

The current estimated cost of STARS is $1.4 billion, which is $462 million

more than the original estimate of $940 million, according to Kenneth Mead,

the Transportation Department's inspector general, speaking at a House Appropriations

Committee hearing March 22. Mead also noted the implementation is more than

three years behind schedule.

"The STARS schedule continues to be impacted by the software development

needed to resolve the computer-human interface issues and other new requirements,"

Mead said in his testimony.

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