Air traffic system debuts in Florida

Federal Aviation Administration

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The first deployment of an automated air traffic system was completed yesterday, marking a significant improvement in the direct routing of aircraft.

Lockheed Martin Corp. designed the User Request Evaluation Tool (URET) software that the Federal Aviation Administration put into operation at its Air Route Traffic Control Center, in Jacksonville, Fla. The FAA awarded Lockheed Martin a $204 million contract in 1999 to develop the application.

The new software eases the burden on air traffic controllers by predicting potential conflicts with other aircraft up to 20 minutes in advance. It can also determine if pilot-requested changes to a flight plan are free of conflicts with other aircraft. Controllers previously relied on paper flight progress strips, but URET will increase strategic planning, direct routing of aircraft and changes made because of weather and wind conditions.

The system continuously monitors aircraft in comparison to their flight plans and issues a controller alert 40 minutes before an aircraft is predicted to enter restricted or prohibited airspace.

Jacksonville's system is the first to gain government acceptance and full implementation, though Lockheed Martin did complete a limited deployment at six other centers: Kansas City, Mo.; Memphis, Tenn.; Indianapolis; Cleveland; Chicago; and Washington.

All of the FAA's 14 centers nationwide should have the software operational by 2005, federal officials said.

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