Plane landing at busy airport

FAA gets air-traffic management tool from NASA

Technology that will allow air traffic controllers to maximize performance-based navigation of aircraft on approach to the runway is being transferred to the Federal Aviation Administration from NASA, the FAA announced.

The technology, called Terminal Sequence and Spacing (TSS),  allows controllers to safely reduce excess spacing between approaching aircraft, saving time and fuel while reducing emissions. The tool uses time-based metering to improve the safety and efficiency of approach procedures in terminal airspace.

TSS is the another step in NASA’s support of development of a Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, which is a joint multi-agency and industry initiative to modernize and upgrade the nation's air traffic control system.

The TSS tool provides information to controllers about the speeds they should assign to aircraft as they follow fuel-efficient, continuous-descent arrival procedures while passing through a region of airspace surrounding an airport. TSS dovetails with an existing traffic metering tool, Time-Based Flow Management, that delivers efficiencies in the airspace beyond the airport.

With the new technology, controllers see circles – called slot markers – on their display screens that indicate where an aircraft should be in order to fly through a forecasted wind field, meet all speed and altitude restrictions and land on time. The software enables performance-based navigation to become more routine, requiring less vectoring, fewer level-offs of aircraft and less communication between controllers and pilots.

The FAA, which received an initial technology transfer of TSS from NASA last September, is expected to make a full investment decision by the end of the year through its Joint Resources Council, a team of top agency executives that reviews major acquisitions and approves funding. The FAA is working to deploy the tool in the next five years, targeting an initial operating capability around 2018, according to a NASA statement.


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