For Immediate Release

September 1, 1999
Contact: John Clabes
Phone: (405)954-7500

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is aggressively upgrading its air traffic systems to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The FAA is responsible for the largest, most complex and safest aviation system in the world. It includes more than 18,000 airports, 470 air traffic control towers, 176 terminal radar control facilities (TRACONs), and 21 en route air traffic control centers.

FAA is putting in place a series of programs and systems in the modernization effort. They include:

  • "Host" computers — The FAA is replacing the "host" computer at all of its en route centers. The host processes flight plan and radar data and sends that information to controllers at the center and other air traffic facilities. Host replacement involves hardware only, no new software.
  • Display System Replacement (DSR) — DSR is the cornerstone in the FAA air traffic modernization program. It is replacing 20-year-old equipment in the 20 Air Route Traffic Control Centers around the continental U.S. with new controller workstations, display computer hardware and software, and network infrastructure. Features include new color displays and consoles for controllers, quieter and faster flight strip printers, and high reliability.
  • Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) — STARS will replace computers (hardware and software) at the nation’s busiest airport terminals and pave the way for future upgrades. The new displays will help controllers handle traffic more efficiently while maintaining today’s extraordinary level of safety.
  • Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) — WAAS enhances signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS) to satisfy civil aviation navigation requirements. When the first phase of WAAS is operational in September 2000, pilots will be able to make precision GPS-guided landings throughout roughly half of the continental United States.
  • Data Link — Data link is essentially airborne e-mail flowing between computers on the ground and in the cockpit. It reduces the time lag and chances of errors associated with voice communications. Data link can provide critical flight and weather information from various data bases directly to pilots. The technology already is being used to transmit pre-departure clearances to pilots.
  • Free Flight — The concept of Free Flight will give operators maximum flexibility, consistent with safety, to fly fuel-efficient routes. The prospect of greatly increased flexibility to fly direct routes could have substantial benefits, including fuel and time savings, fewer delays and a more efficient use of airspace.
  • Free Flight Phase 1 — Based on a consensus from all sectors of aviation, the FAA established the Free Flight Phase I program to bring significant benefits to airspace users by 2002. The program is installing selected technologies at specific air traffic facilities to help reduce risks and resolve many of the technical and procedural issues connected with the transition to Free Flight.
  • Year 2000 (Y2K) — The FAA had to overhaul its computers to make sure they roll over at midnight Dec. 31, 1999. Without a fix, computers would see "00" and may assume it meant 1900. The FAA has already renovated its systems, and subject to final verification, it was 100 percent Y2K compliant as of June 30, 1999.
  • The FAA has already completed other important modernization projects. The Display Channel Complex Rehost, a program that replaced aging computers driving the controller displays at five major en route centers (Chicago; Fort Worth, Texas; Cleveland, Washington; and New York) was finished in 1997. The Voice Switching and Control System, which replaces equipment dating back to the 1960s and provides much clearer, more reliable voice communications, also was operational at all 20 en route centers in 1997.