N.Y. controllers use new FAA system to reduce air space between transoceanic flights

An air traffic system that allows controllers to reduce space between aircraft flying over U.S. oceanic air space is now fully operational at its first site ' the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center ' the Federal Aviation Administration said today.

The New York center controls airspace over the Atlantic Ocean.

The Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures (ATOP) system automates existing manual procedures by integrating with radar-processing functions of the en route automated radar tracking system. It detects potential conflicts between aircraft and provides data link and surveillance capabilities.

The new technology allows air traffic controllers to reduce the separation between aircraft over the ocean from 100 to 30 nautical miles and enables communication between the aircraft and the control center. Previously, there was no radar tracking of and no direct radio communication with oceanic air traffic, unlike domestic air traffic.

Position reports based upon onboard aircraft navigational systems were radioed to controllers. Due to the uncertainty in position-report reliability, overseas flight tracks must provide greater separation margins to ensure safe flights, FAA said.

FAA is also installing ATOP at control centers in Oakland, Calif., and Anchorage, Alaska, for the Pacific and Arctic regions. ATOP, developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. since 2001, will be fully operational in Oakland this fall and in Anchorage during the spring of 2006.

'The system helps the airlines save fuel while maintaining the highest standards of safety for transoceanic flights,' said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. With greater transoceanic capacity, more airlines will be able to fly preferred routes, saving fuel and achieving better on-time performance, she added.

ATOP also reduces the workload on controllers through the use of electronic flight strips instead of the labor-intensive paper strip method used for decades to track transoceanic aircraft. FAA provides air traffic services to 80 percent of the world's controlled oceanic airspace.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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