Web software zeroes in on real-time

Web software zeroes in on real-time

The Flight Explorer display shows a nationwide view of air traffic and updated weather conditions to FAA users.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently began using aircraft situation displays at operational centers in Atlanta, Kansas City, Mo., and San Diego.

Under the National Airspace Operations Monitor Analyzer Display contract signed last fall with Flight Explorer of Fairfax, Va., FAA bought 50 licenses that will be used nationwide, said Richard Thoma, deputy program director of National Airspace Operations at FAA.

FAA is using an enhanced version of Flight Explorer Professional Edition 3.10. The software provides real-time graphic displays of aircraft and weather over North America as well as Hawaii and the United Kingdom.

The minimum requirements for using the application are a 200-MHz Pentium PC with 64M of RAM, Microsoft Windows 95 and Internet access. FAA is running the app on the Unix workstations used by its air traffic controllers.

The software shows all planes, except military aircraft, in flight being tracking by the National Airspace System and updates their positions every 10 seconds, said Walt Kross, president and chief executive officer of Flight Explorer.

With a click on any plane, users can find out the airline, takeoff time, altitude, speed, type of aircraft, and airports of arrival and departure.

The software also captures the flight plan: the intended route of the aircraft and the route the plane takes depending on conditions such as weather and traffic, Kross said.

The display depicts the geography of the National Airspace System, Thoma said. 'It provides us with traffic management functions and overlay maps.'

For instance, the display puts into motion the last eight updates of weather conditions.

FAA transmits information gathered by its radar systems across the country to the Transportation Department's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Mass. After filtering the air traffic information, the center sends general and commercial aviation information to Flight Explorer, for which the company pays a fee. The display system processes the information for the Web.

Look no further

FAA also uses the software to track unmanned radar sites.

'A lot of these sites have sensors for [reporting] electrical surges and moisture, overheating, and they are looking for some graphic integrated display on each of these sites,' Kross said.

The screen shows all the radar information, along with data on any major and undefined problems. A click on a particular radar system displays the faults at that facility and the name of the electrician on duty.

'With this information, you can just call up the electrician and tell him what needs to be done,' Kross said.

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