FAA, Boeing Debut Separate Plans for Air Traffic Control

The Federal Aviation Administration and the Boeing Co. each unveiled plans June 6 to improve the capacity of the air traffic control system in the United States and cut down on delays that have afflicted commercial airlines ? and the traveling public ? for almost two years.

The FAA did not propose new initiatives or contracts, agency officials said, but pulled together the programs already planned or under way.

The 10-year, $11.5 billion Operational Evolution Plan revolves around "credible initiatives" that focus on solving problems, said FAA Deputy Administrator Monte Belger at a briefing announcing the plan. "We're not promising solutions we can't deliver on," he said.

The FAA plan proposes building 15 new runways at some of the nation's busiest airports, but "half of the [busiest] airports will not have new runways," the report said.

Completing initiatives to improve weather information also ranked high in the FAA's plan, both for routing en route airplanes around bad weather and for managing the effects of bad weather on specific airports, which can create a ripple effect throughout the national airspace.

Belger said the agency has been consulting with Seattle-based Boeing as the company moved ahead with its proposal for overhauling of the country's air traffic control system.

The FAA plans to slowly evolve the air traffic control system from radar-based to satellite-based systems. Boeing's plan also centers on satellite-based air traffic control systems, but company officials described it as more revolutionary, incorporating more levels of communication between airplanes, controllers and satellites.

The FAA's plan is complementary with Boeing's plan, Belger said, but he did not elaborate on what Boeing's specific role might be under the FAA plan.

Historically, Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., and the Raytheon Co. of Lexington, Mass., have dominated FAA contracts relating to air traffic control.

In the agency's 10-year plan, Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor on the Common Automated Radar Terminal System project and the Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures contract. Raytheon holds the Wide Area Augmentation System contract, the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System contract and the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar program, to name a few.

At a separate press briefing held a few hours later, a Boeing official said the FAA plan does not go far enough to handle future air traffic growth.

John Hayhurst, president of Boeing's Air Traffic Management unit formed in November 2000, said much of the FAA plan is intended to keep the air traffic control system afloat until his company's satellite-based system can be implemented.

The Boeing proposal concentrates on providing sophisticated aircraft trajectory information, a look-ahead capability to improve knowledge of individual planes' locations, he said.

The Boeing system would also provide a common information network accessible to various elements in the national airspace, including air traffic controllers and pilots. The proposal calls for redesigning the use of airspace and changing the proximity rules for planes near one another without jeopardizing safety.

Much of Boeing's proposed system would rely on satellite communications, which Hayhurst said is more precise that geographic positioning system satellites.

Hayhurst said Boeing's motivation in expanding into the air traffic control industry is to keep the system from becoming so overloaded that it hurts the company's primary business, the manufacture of commercial aircraft.

Hayhurst declined to say how much it would cost to completely revamp the air traffic control system, nor would he comment on how long it would take to get the various stakeholders in this field ? the controllers, the FAA, the airlines, other manufacturers, Congress and the administration ? to sign up to the plan.

He said if the company could begin work on the plan immediately, it would take seven to eight years for all of the elements to be in place.

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