Oceanic air traffic control takes off in Oakland

The Federal Aviation Administration accepted the first installation of its new air traffic management system that allows for reduced separation between aircraft flying over U.S. oceanic airspace.

FAA's Oakland, Calif., en route and oceanic center is the first site for the Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures system, built by Lockheed Martin Corp. and installed April 29 following testing.

ATOP will let controllers reduce the space between airborne aircraft while preserving passenger safety and, in the process, improve fuel and routing efficiency and costs and increase international airspace capacity. The new system automates some tasks previously done manually.

Oceanic air traffic control has no radar tracking of aircraft and no direct radio communication, as domestic air traffic does. Position reports based on onboard aircraft navigational systems are radioed to the controller. Because of the uncertainty in position report reliability, planned overseas flight tracks must provide greater separation margins to ensure safe flights, FAA said.

The ATOP system will be integrated with the radar processing functions of the microprocessor en route automated radar tracking system, which will support tracking of aircraft using primary and secondary radar inputs and automatic dependent surveillance broadcast.

Lockheed Martin is testing and training controllers and technicians, and anticipates achieving New York site acceptance in September. The company also installed ATOP system hardware in Anchorage, Alaska, and site acceptance testing there is scheduled in 2005.

"First site acceptance is a significant achievement toward helping us provide our customers with oceanic services that allow more planes to fly preferred routes and manage growing international air traffic," said Charles Keegan, FAA vice president for En Route and Oceanic Services.

The FAA manages approximately 80 percent of the world's controlled oceanic airspace, including approximately 24 million square miles over the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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