FAA lets fly with version of STARS

FAA lets fly with version of STARS<@VM>Major Programs

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Mark McMillen, left, and Henry I. Gonzalez are helping to develop a display for the STARS program that will let air traffic controllers work in near-standard lighting rather than near darkness.

The Federal Aviation Administration this summer has been getting its billion-dollar, five-year-old Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System program off the ground.

The Early Display Configuration version of STARS went into operation in June at FAA sites in El Paso, Texas, and Syracuse, N.Y., said Henry I. Gonzalez, manager of FAA's Terminal Automation Systems.

STARS is a joint program of the FAA and Defense Department to replace air traffic controller workstations at 172 FAA and up to 199 DOD facilities with systems that show each controller all data on a single color monitor.

Using monitors with 2,000-by-2,000-pixel resolution on a 27-inch screen, STARS can display 900 aircraft at one time from 16 radar feeds, with six levels of weather intensity.

The color display will let air traffic controllers work in near-standard lighting rather than the near-darkness needed to view the monochrome screens FAA began using in the 1970s.

Controllers will begin testing Early Display Configuration units for operational effectiveness at the El Paso and Syracuse facilities. The units have almost all the hardware of the full STARS, including Sun Microsystems workstations and Sony Corp. displays, but do not contain all the software, Gonzalez said.

FAA will deploy EDCs at 11 other facilities: Albany, N.Y.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Birmingham, Ala.; Bradley, Conn.; Cleveland; Des Moines, Iowa; Detroit; Las Vegas; Memphis, Tenn.; Omaha, Neb.; and Providence, R.I.

'Up until now we have been focusing on two sites, and this is the first step toward national deployment,' Gonzalez said.

In 1996, FAA awarded Raytheon Co. the contract to put STARS into operation. The plan called for installing the system at civilian facilities by February 2005 and at military air traffic centers by July 2007.

Because of changes in FAA's requirements, program costs have spiraled from an original estimate of $940 million to $1.4 billion, and deployment at FAA and DOD facilities is almost four years behind plans.

STARS software will be deployed in phases: Full STARS 1 and Full STARS 2, Gonzalez said.

FS-1 will provide 80 percent of the functions established for controllers and 100 percent of systems specialists' requirements. FS-2 will deliver the remaining 20 percent, he said.

At the controllers

The functions for controllers include settings for details such as the size of the icon on the screen, color schemes, and an aircraft's speed on the screen and the type of trail it leaves, said Mark McMillen, deputy STARS product lead. 'It's basically the way controllers manipulate display,' he said.

'For FS-1, we are in the process of accepting the code from Raytheon and will begin evaluating it on our own in September,' Gonzalez said, adding that the contractor is getting ready to test the code for FS-2.

Software called FS-2+ will supply controllers with data blocks that contain information on the type of aircraft, flight number, destination and flight path, Gonzalez said.

Last month, FAA showed off its progress on STARS by sending the standalone console system and two tower displays by van to go on tour at civilian air traffic facilities.

'It's an educational project for controllers and technicians to get familiarized with the system,' Gonzalez said.
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