FAA speeds up deployment of flight path app

FAA speeds up deployment of flight path app

The Federal Aviation Administration this week began an accelerated rollout of a system to assess pilots' requests to change flight paths.

The User Request Evaluation Tool, part of FAA's Free Flight program, gives controllers a 20-minute advance look at air traffic patterns to detect possible conflicts in pilots' routes. Generally, pilots request to take more direct routes or to change altitudes and avoid turbulence, for example.

The original plan called for rolling out the URET application at FAA's 20 en route centers over the next 10 years. But following Sept. 11, FAA compressed the schedule and will install the app at all centers by 2004.

Officials already had been thinking of speeding up the deployment because of controllers' positive feedback about URET.

So far, six centers use URET. The latest is the Washington en route center in Leesburg, Va., which began using the app today. In addition to Leesburg, centers in Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Mo., and Memphis, Tenn., use URET.

Lockheed Martin Corp. built the $200 million app. As soon as a request comes in, the system can immediately identify whether a change would be safe. Previously, controllers relied on paper flight diagrams and mental calculations.

'With more direct routes, Free Flight helps bring shorter flights to passengers,' she said. 'This technology helps pilots, controllers and the person sitting in Row 15, Seat B.'

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