Airport weather warnings get upgrade

Aging computers that provide air traffic controllers with severe weather

information at some of the nation's busiest airports will be replaced under

a contract awarded this week by the Federal Aviation Administration to Silicon

Graphics Inc.

SGI's Origin 200 servers will replace the computer servers for the Terminal

Doppler Weather Radar systems at 45 airports. SGI will provide 104 servers

for the system.

TDWR detects hazardous wind shear around airport approach and departure

areas and displays it on air traffic controllers' radar screens. It provides

specific information on the location and strength of wind shear with sufficient

warning to allow planes to avoid it.

The system has been using Harris Corp.'s NightHawk system, developed

in the 1980s.

The SGI Origin 200 servers are SGI's entry-level servers, said Steve

Lohrmann, SGI Federal account manager for the Transportation Department.

They are some of the most reliable servers the company has produced, he

said during an interview at the Air Traffic Control Association Inc. conference

Oct. 25 in Atlantic City, N.J.

"The FAA now has a large-memory computer that they can put new algorithms

on to get better weather prediction capabilities," Lohrmann said. SGI already

has shipped the servers to FAA for installation. Several are being tested

in Oklahoma City, he said.

The FAA purchased the servers through NASA's Science and Engineering

Workstation Procurement II, a governmentwide acquisition contract for high-end

computers and peripherals.

TDWR uses two types of displays to provide controllers information that

they can use to tell pilots what severe weather areas to avoid upon landing.

The first is an alphanumeric display that contains only wind shear warnings,

including the affected runway, type of warning, strength of wind shear and

location of wind shear relative to approach or departure. Those warnings

can be read to pilots verbatim. The second display is a color geographic

display that shows all four TDWR products and is used by air traffic supervisors

for planning purposes.

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