FAA uses technology to speed air travel

The Federal Aviation Administration is using some new approaches and technology to better manage air traffic and minimize delays during the summer travel season, FAA Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell said May 22. He also reported progress in recently adopted safety inspection initiatives.

The FAA has been under fire by Congress for not doing enough to reduce the increasing air traffic gridlock that produces airline delays and for safety concerns as a result of revelations earlier this year of postponed aircraft inspections.

Using more sophisticated air traffic software is helping the FAA manage traffic more smoothly, fill in canceled slots in arrival schedules with other flights, and route flights around severe weather more easily, he said.

The FAA also has launched software, named adaptive compression, that scans for airport arrival slots that would otherwise go to waste when a flight is canceled, delayed or rerouted, he said, adding that open slots are filled with the next available flight, minimizing passenger delays by making better use of operations at constrained airports.

“This software pays an immediate dividend to passengers,” Sturgell said. Controllers are automatically notified of open slots and the next available flights, rather than having to perform those functions manually, he said. The FAA began using the software last year.

He also noted that satellite technology will let planes fly closer together over the Atlantic Ocean from New York to the Caribbean, opening up more routes and reducing delays along that busy corridor.

The FAA has created a playbook of alternate route options that are pre-coordinated to direct them around severe weather. And a new automated tool that illustrates airspace affected by storms lets pilots provide early on their preferred routing around the bad weather. This capability eliminates the need for FAA to make the required rerouting and gives airlines scheduling options and more efficient use of the available airspace, he said.

After it was revealed in March that Southwest Airlines flew aircraft that were long overdue for safety inspections with the knowledge of FAA supervisors and shortly thereafter American Airlines was directed to ground aircraft to re-check wiring, the agency established programs to improve safety.

As of this month, inspectors must have additional signatures to ensure that corrective actions to aircraft safety inspection discrepancies are implemented and effective, Sturgell said. The FAA also developed a safety issues reporting system, which began operating April 30, to give aviation safety employees another option to raise safety concerns if they believe that supervisory or management personnel have

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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