FAA's air traffic project takes off

One of the Federal Aviation Administration's most critical air traffic control advisory projects became operational this week.

The Weather and Radar Processor (WARP) was deployed at all 20 air route traffic control facilities, jumpstarting FAA modernization efforts to reduce airline delays and improve efficiency for ground-to-air communication and surveillance.

WARP, an adaptation of the National Weather Service's Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD), lets controllers see weather information for their flight area on the same screen that shows aircraft position.

'Seventy percent of air traffic delays are due to weather,' said Bill Peacock, director of Air Traffic Control at FAA. 'We can give them a better picture of what's out there.'

Peacock said if pilots can see the weather in detail in advance, they can make better decisions about avoiding certain impeding weather patterns.

The WARP shows three levels of precipitation on a controller's Display System Replacement (DSR) screens'moderate, heavy and more severe.

NEXRAD gives weather updates every 6 minutes. But, Peacock said the FAA is trying to improve that turnaround to about 4.1 minutes.

The FAA is also trying to make NEXRAD more coverage west of the Mississippi River, where the mountains get in the way of weather information transmission.

So far there is no empirical evidence that shows WARP improves efficiency and reduces delays, but there are anecdotes from air traffic controllers, said Steven Pelissier, national WARP representative and part of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

WARP is another Air Traffic Control advisory project, one of several in the National Airspace Redesign project. 'We're migrating from a ground-based to a satellite-based system pieces at a time,' said Sabra Kaulia, representative of the Air Traffic Airspace Management Program Office at FAA.

The redesign will save fuel, reduce delays and bring savings in the 'millions of dollars' for the customer, Kaulia said.

'To me, this is a big success for the FAA,' Pelissier said.

Harris Corp. developed the $117 million WARP system.

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