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Why 40-Year-Old Tech Is Still Running America’s Air Traffic Control

送信時刻:
 
On Friday, September 26, 2014, a telecommunications contractor named Brian Howard woke early and headed to Chicago Center, an air traffic control hub in Aurora, Illinois, where he had worked for eight years. He had decided to get stoned and kill himself, and as his final gesture he planned to take a chunk of the US air traffic control system with him. (www.wired.com) さらに...

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devolder
devolder 4
Even the most common used systems like ATC radio are still based on the 1930's AM voicemodulation. Transatlantic ATC still uses 1940's USB. Lost iPhones can be traced in seconds by millions of users. Also systems for centralized and live backup of airliners positions via sat, are available since the 90's. With such systems the search for MH370 would take 10 seconds in stead of searching the bottoms of the sea's for months. But, argumentation for not using these systems is the high price versus the commonly accepted very low accident rate ?
Strange theory, how much accidents would it then take to decide to update things ?
RRKen
A lost iPhone cannot be traced in the middle of the Atlantic, radio waves without a base station renders the phone useless, so that is a bad example. Forget over the Atlantic, if you loose your iPhone in rural Osage, IA where there is no coverage, it cannot be traced.

In all cases, finding something lost be it MH370 or an iPhone requires radio infrastructure. That infrastructure costs money. And as I provided in the case of aircraft owners in the U.S., unwilling to replace/install ADS-B transponders unless forced, it is not a question of technology, but of who will pay for it.
pthomas745
40 year old tech microwaved my dinner tonight, too.
lynx318
lynx318 7
Is she still good looking?
jiki
Jinf Wei 0
what's the meaning?
Moviela
Wei, he was using humor to ironically compare radar based ATC systems that use the same radio technology that is used to heat food quickly.
jiki
Jinf Wei 0
Thank you.A America humor.
yr2012
still using tube sets?
joiseau
This is a remarkably poorly written article. It does not even come close to answering the question posed in the title. And while it may give pleasure to all those regulation hates out there i see nothing to appeal to the appetite of those of us who love flying, airplanes, and the systems that keep it all going. Oh well.
skylab72
skylab72 2
I must respectfully disagree. This is NOT about regulation haters. The key answer you seek is in the paragraph (The problem is that NextGen is a project of the FAA. The agency is primarily a regulatory body, responsible for keeping the national airspace safe, and yet it is also in charge of operating air traffic control, an inherent conflict that causes big issues when it comes to upgrades. Modernization, a struggle for any federal agency, is practically antithetical to the FAA's operational culture, which is risk-averse, methodical, and bureaucratic. Paired with this is the lack of anything approximating market pressure. The FAA is the sole consumer of the product; it's a closed loop.)

Some 30 years ago I worked for the Government business entity at Texas Instruments, and the 500 million SARA BRESELOR mentions does not even begin to cover the money wasted by the FAA on ATC issues. I want to stress this is NOT a blanket govt procurement bash either, but under FAA contracts related to ATC, (all in the RFP stage, NextGen before they called it that), we blew something over a hundred million bucks with net zero to the flying public. Due precisly to the issues in the above paragraph. In the SAME time period working for Admiral Willoughby USN we brought in Block I HARM (AGM-88) for $250,000 UNDER budget, and six months early! So it was not our issue it IS the FAA!!!
joiseau
Perhaps i am a bit dim but i really don't see any reasonable explanation here as to why it is a conflict of interest for the FAA, "a regulatory body responsible for keeping the national airspace safe" to also be operating ATC.
skylab72
skylab72 1
No the conflict is between an agency that is to regulate and set standards, (think 'keep safe'), and one that is supposed to support and promote (think services like ATC, and Nav aids). If this is still puzzling, I suspect you have never had to deal with the FAA.
joelwiley
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
joelwiley
Who is to watch the watcher? You have an entity (FAA) providing oversight of an entity (FAA) Auditing one's self is a conflict of interest. The same people running the operation are supposed to make sure they are running it correctly? A related problem is that neither the right hand nor left hand have the project management expertise to deal with a project as complex as NextGen. That, coupled with a lack of accountability (success or failure have the same effect on the participants) leads to the situation found in many govermenment projects.
skylab72
skylab72 1
Kinda like this thread where we reply to ourselves... ;)
joelwiley
Or hit the send key by accident ;-\
jmilleratp
As long as so much money goes to giving subsidies to those who don't need it, and giving money to the pet projects of lobbyists, ATC will technologically remain where it is. The United States has to decide what's important.
TomController
Sorry John, first you can blame Ron (b-grade) Reagan for screwing up, at the time, the World's leading ATC system. Canada went private and now are selling their system world wide and USA has expressed interest in aspects. The crazy thing is North America should be working together for the best ATC system instead of going their own direction. At one point USA & Canada couldn't communicate but that is the past as automation makes the two system blend together almost seamlessly.
hotspurs
Reagan? Move on.
skylab72
skylab72 6
No Really. RR added more muck for FAA boots to get stuck in, and the effects on personnell attitudes lingers today.
pilot62
But he was a GREAT actor
skylab72
skylab72 1
Maybe, but they shoulda paid the chimp more, he carried the show. (ref: Bed Time for Bonzo, for you youngsters)
Moviela
Truth be known, the chimp WAS paid more.
RRKen
While some of what the writer has proposed to us is true, he misses a larger part of the argument towards implementation of NextGen. That part is that the system depends upon the carriers to install and maintain ADS-B equipment (Transponders) in aircraft. Private sector Carriers have such equipment in newly delivered craft, but has not retrofitted current aircraft (yes, I realize the deadline mentioned in FAA rule making).

Implementing such a large wide ranging system as NextGen can be made in a few years or even several without delays or errors. Going from clean sheet to finished product, involving both public and private entities does not happen overnight. The writer of the article fails to see all the facts in the case.
skylab72
skylab72 1
She did not have the column inches to cover 'all the facts'. She hit the high spots. See paragraph quoted above.
calicalicoqui
"It can handle a limited amount of traffic, and controllers can't see anything outside of their own airspace—when they hand off a plane to a contiguous airspace, it vanishes from their radar."

The above statement is just plain wrong. Sure it can handle only a limited amount of traffic. There will always be a limit in the ATC computer system, no matter how much it is improved in the future. Even the old system was designed to accommodate far more traffic than it will ever see.

The statement "can't see anything outside of their own airspace..." is false. Controllers have been able to see outside their own airspace since the 1960's, yes, the 60's. FAA handbook 7110.65 requires a controller to hand off a flight before it enters adjacent airspace in a radar environment. The sending controller starts a hand-off 10-15 nautical miles from the other controller's boundary. The gaining controller takes the hand-off while still in the other airspace. That is routine and has been going on thousands of times a day since the 1970's. There are some anomalous conditions that cause a track to vanish from the radar. Usually it is because the actual aircraft is long gone, and only a computer representation of the flight still exists. The controller can tell that there is no real aircraft there and when it vanishes from the radar, they are glad to see it go.

The whole aviation system is a victim of early adoption of computers and other technology. The radar beacon code system to help identify aircraft was digitized using four octal (0000 to 7777, no 8's or above) (0 to 4096 in decimal) so the number of unique beacon codes is very limited and facilities use those codes least likely to be used by their neighboring facility. Also, aviation radio got well established using AM radios in the 1930's or before. AM is really not bad since aircraft can communicate long distance with low power because their altitude provides good line of sight communication. If you want to change the system to FM just try it. The airlines and private owners world wide don't want the expense. It's not that broken.
lynx318
lynx318 1
Question: Is there gaps between ATC radar zones where a flight can literally disappear for a time? I sort of read that statement & had that in mind.
skylab72
skylab72 1
Yes, there exist 'holes' between zones. the obvious example, being in the middle of oceans. All radar has finite range, any time two antenna are farther apart than the sum of their range there is a gap in between. Picture a map with circles around radar stations. Out in the boonies, often in rarely traveled locations, it is easy to find gaps. I know of no gaps in high traffic density areas.
scott8733
.....sounds like a normal day at the office for the federal government, years late implementing and a half billion dollars over budget.
joelwiley
Three hallmarks of a government IT program: 1) it takes longer than advertized, 2) it costs more than estimated, and 3) it doesn't work.
JMARTINSON
Unfortunately those are the hallmarks of every IT project since the beginning of time.
jimmax23
To the rejoice of Lockheed-Martin shareholders.
joelwiley
Consultants creed: If you aren't part of the solution, there's good money in perpetuating the problem.
jimmax23
Exactly. I see I've gotten some downvotes on this, but where do they think that FAA spending goes? I actually like the services provided by LMFS and want ADS-B/NextGen to be successful.
lynx318
lynx318 1
Why does it seem that sudden progress is only ever the result of major accident or sabotage? Development probably received a good sized shunt for now, but will soon start dawdling again until the next calamity.
ARTCC
For the foreseeable future, if you purchase Wi-Fi in coach, you're pretty much better off than the pilot is an outrageous statement by the author and very misleading to the flying public. The National Airspace System isn't about one aircraft wanting to go direct to destination. The complexity is obviously over her head. Interesting...no mention of aviation weather like thunderstorms anywhere in the article or comments. Maybe we should just let computers deal with that also. BTW the National Bureau of Standards built the first Atomic Clock in Boulder, CO. (WWV) It's the heart of the GPS system. Not bad for the Feds.
joelwiley
Another way of looking at that statement is, if it is a regional airline and you can afford a ticket to fly, your income is probably higher than the pilots and thus 'better off'.
jeffinsydney
A lot of government offices in the USA still have no internet or email.
Post Offices have little or no tech except for scanners for bar codes. The government spends and spends on the military, everyone else gets crumbs.

So?
Why is the lack of new ATC such a big surprise.
calicalicoqui
One obvious error is that aircraft once handed off to an adjacent air traffic facility do not fall of the scope. Both controllers, the gain and the losing can still see the aircraft with the old equipment and that has been the case for decades. Air Traffic Control technology is always behind, and that is disappointing, but it is because it takes decades to implement a system. If system that goes on line today had to be designed 30 years ago, so by the time it becomes a reality the equipment is obsolete. NASA has the same problem.

Also, about the naive comments about cellphones being able to track lost aircraft. It was already mentioned that they are out of range of cell towers, but the recent incidents in Indonesia/Malaysia the aircraft were probably under water soon after they were lost. Cellphones would not be able to provide position information under water. Plus these incidents took place in a sector of the world that is even further behind that the U.S. in terms of Air Traffic radar and other and ADS-B (another tracking device that depends on GPS.
honzanl
honza nl 1
US people don't like tax, as tax is bad, government is bad etc etc. Well, then you get the infrastructure in the US that looks perfect, for Africa that is.... Roads, bridges, and this ATC equipment: if you pay for peanuts you get monkeys.
jbmbanter
"The FAA will finish the job this spring, five years late and at least $500 million over budget."

The first problem with this statement is that the FAA won't finish the job this spring. The second problem is that the project is being run by the Federal Government and most of the agencies can't even run a washing machine.

This whole thing reminds me of the King's health insurance program which has been so graciously been given the nickname Obama Care. Both programs are as laughable as Bill Clinton's man Axlerod saying the Obama administration hasn't had any scandals. Give us all a break.

I actually hope the new ATC gets off the ground soon and with no more cost over runs. The American flying public deserves no less than the best.
NF2G
The insular attitude is another reason for the snail's pace of progress.

This does not concern "the American flying public" alone. The WORLD'S flying public, a huge proportion of which flies in US airspace, deserves much better than the FAA is ready to give.
skylab72
skylab72 2
Little chance of any step function improvement, until te FAA's inherent conflict of intrest is removed, (see para graph quote from article above).
honzanl
honza nl 2
no, let the private sector organise it, look at 9/11 how the private sector worked....
and about health care: you pay in the US double percentage of your GDP as of Holland, but at least here everybody is covered; and that is typically private sector: you pay a lot but most of it ends in the pockets of the managers...

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