For Immediate Release

October 31, 2005
Contact: Donn Walker
Phone: (310) 725-3580

OAKLAND, Calif. — A new system that allows air traffic controllers to better manage flights over the Pacific Ocean is now fully operational at the Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center (Oakland Center), the Federal Aviation Administration announced today.

The new Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures (ATOP) system provides safe separation of aircraft in areas outside radar coverage or direct radio communication, such as over the ocean. The system, which detects conflicts between aircraft, sends data and aircraft position information via satellite to air traffic controllers at Oakland Center. ATOP significantly reduces the intensive manual process that previously limited the flexibility of controllers to safely handle airline requests for more efficient tracks over long oceanic routes.

“The system helps the airlines save fuel while maintaining the highest standards of safety for transoceanic flights,” said FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey. “This is a technology whose time has come.”

ATOP also reduces the workload on controllers by displaying aircraft information electronically instead of on paper strips, a labor-intensive method used for decades to track transoceanic aircraft.

More direct communications and reduced controller workload will allow controllers to reduce horizontal separation between aircraft from 100 nautical miles (nm) to 30 nm. With greater transoceanic capacity, more airlines will be able to fly preferred routes, saving fuel and allowing better on-time performance.

In June, the FAA began using ATOP for transatlantic flights, which are handled by New York Center in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. In addition, ATOP is expected to become operational at Anchorage Center for transarctic flights in the spring of 2006. The FAA provides air traffic services to 80 percent of the world’s controlled oceanic airspace.

Lockheed Martin was awarded the ATOP contract in June 2001.