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Speech – "En Route Automation Modernization"

"En Route Automation Modernization"
Michael Huerta, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
April 30, 2015

ERAM Press Conference

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and thank you to everyone for joining us today.

En Route Automation Modernization, or ERAM, is one of the largest technology changeovers in the history of the FAA. We completed it last month and – I’m pleased to report – that it’s functioning smoothly in the 20 high altitude air traffic control centers across the continental United States right now.

ERAM is not just a faster computer system – it’s a network that replaces our legacy system, which had its roots in the 1960s. We are now able to handle air traffic in a much more collaborative way. We can see a much bigger and richer picture of our nation’s high altitude air traffic.

ERAM gives us a big boost in technological horsepower over the system it replaces. This computer system enables each controller to handle more aircraft over a larger area, resulting in increased safety, capacity and efficiency.

ERAM processes data from nearly three times the number of sensors as the old system. It can track and display nearly double the number of high altitude flights, and enable controllers to handle additional traffic more efficiently. It’s going to make all air traffic flow more smoothly across the country.

As the Secretary said, this means that controllers will now be able to better manage flights from gate to gate. With tools that are now available through ERAM, our air traffic computers can generate specific trajectories and speeds that will allow controllers to make the most efficient use of the airspace and cut down on congestion. Previously, controllers would have to estimate the best speed for an aircraft to travel in order to maintain proper separation. With the more precise picture that ERAM gives us, there’s a greater opportunity for more efficient spacing of aircraft and to use NextGen procedures that save fuel and cut down on emissions.

Eventually, in conjunction with other new technology, ERAM will allow controllers to push a button and send a written message to a pilot in advance, allowing them to change course and steer around storms and congestion, once again improving on time arrival and decreasing delays.

Our new system now links seamlessly with another technology that processes satellite-based GPS information. This system is called Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast, or ADS-B. Last year we finished the coast-to-coast installation of the ADS-B network.

With its GPS technology, ADS-B provides a more precise and efficient alternative to radar including in places where there was no radar coverage before. For example, using their new ERAM computers, controllers today are providing radar-like separation over the Gulf of Mexico and large parts of Alaska with ADS-B. By 2020, it will become the FAA’s primary means of tracking and separating aircraft.

With ERAM in place, the FAA has fulfilled an important commitment in modernizing the nation’s NextGen air traffic control system. We did not make this progress alone. We did so by creating a close collaboration between management, labor and industry.

I’d like to acknowledge the Chief Operating Officer of the FAA’s Air Traffic Control Organization, Teri Bristol, whose leadership on ERAM was fundamental. Also, I’d like to acknowledge our labor representative from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Julio Henriques. Julio was instrumental in helping us implement ERAM and served as the NATCA lead representative. Finally, I would like to acknowledge our industry representative, Stephanie Hill, from Lockheed Martin. The teamwork between labor, management and industry is why ERAM is working today. Together, we are enhancing safety and increasing capacity in what is already the world’s safest aviation system.

I want to thank you again for joining us today, and I would like to turn it over to Julio for more insight into how we accomplished this major milestone.


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