Online airspace plan offers flexibility

The Internet is helping the Federal Aviation Administration open the complex

and time-consuming activity of updating the architecture plan for the National

Airspace System.

The FAA created an online tool last year called the Capability and Architecture

Tool Suite (CATS) that enables the agency to regularly update its NAS architecture

by reaching into various FAA databases.

The NAS architecture document is published in new versions periodically,

but the process is cumbersome and the final document tends to be outdated

by the time it is printed.

The online NAS architecture "living document" includes FAA planning

and forecasts such things as information on air traffic control systems,

sites and facilities, interdependencies and research and development.

The FAA posted the NAS architecture on its intranet last year. It offers

FAA employees the opportunity to make comments directly on the Web-based

system and offer corrections to the information in the document, said Mike

Harrison, FAA program director for architecture and system engineering.

A public version was made available in May at {http://www.nas-architecture.faa.gov/CATS}

www.nas-architecture.faa.gov/CATS, but it does not include dollar amounts

for future projects.

The site receives about 250 hits every two weeks and has received about

500 substantial comments from FAA workers.

The FAA spends about $1 million a year on the Oracle Corp.-based architectural

database. Harrison's team is working on creating executive views that will

help top FAA officials slice through the information.

Harrison said that the architecture document is designed to be used

and manipulated by readers.

Use of the NAS architecture tools helps to provide supporting data for

an investment analysis of a new program. The FAA also can easily change

the architecture based on refinements and FAA decisions whether to proceed

with certain programs, Harrison said.

The NAS architecture system also helps track ongoing programs and can

smell trouble before it becomes apparent, Harrison said. For instance, there

were signs that the FAA's Wide Area Augmentation System for satellite navigation

was in trouble about seven months before the tests proved it, he said.

The architecture as a living document also will start influencing the

nature of research at the FAA, Harrison said.

"The greatest problem I've got is a culture problem in the FAA, which

is multiple schedules," Harrison said. Every project has a schedule that

is made public, another that a team member gives his or her boss, another

that is the real schedule. "That culture has to change to a real schedule."

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