The computer system used at the FAA’s high altitude en route centers is considered the backbone of the nation’s airspace system. It processes flight radar data, provides communications and generates display data to air traffic controllers.
The current system, called the Host, is being replaced by ERAM.
This is a major project since ERAM, unlike stand-alone systems, provides core functionality for air traffic controllers.
ERAM has been installed by Lockheed Martin at 20 en route centers.
Software testing is currently underway at key sites, including Salt Lake City, Seattle and Minneapolis. Salt Lake City and Seattle were chosen as the first two sites to test ERAM communication and data transmissions between facilities.
ERAM will increase capacity and improve efficiency in the nation’s skies. En route controllers will be able to track 1,900 aircraft at a time, instead of the current 1,100. Coverage will also extend beyond facility boundaries, enabling controllers to handle additional traffic more efficiently. The extended coverage is possible because ERAM is designed to process data from 64 radars instead of the current 24.
Controllers will be able to share and coordinate information seamlessly between centers, making the use of three-mile (rather than five-mile) separation. Flight plan processing will also improve, and hand-offs performed when planes divert from their planned course will be done automatically rather than manually. This will improve operational efficiency during weather and congestion.
Other FAA air traffic facilities, including Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facilities and towers, will be connected to en route centers via ERAM, along with the Command Center in Herndon, Va., automated flight service stations, and other agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
ERAM was designed with NextGen in mind. It will support satellite-based systems, such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast, and data communication technologies. This, in turn, will clear the way for future gains in efficiency and safety.
The En Route Information Display System provides real-time aeronautical information, enabling more efficient data management.
A fully functional backup system precludes the need to restrict operations in the event of a primary failure. The backup system also provides safety alerts and weather information not available on today’s backup system.
ERAM has increased flexibility in routing around congestion, weather and other airspace restrictions. Automatic flight coordination increases efficiency and capacity.