ERAM and Collaboration Allow for Efficient Safety Analysis
Thursday, October 07, 2010

The week of September 27, 2010 saw a groundbreaking new integration of collaboration and technology at Oakland ARTCC. The main focus of the project was a proposed vertical extension of the Navy Lemoore MOA/ATCAA. This Special Use Airspace (SUA) is physically located on the boundary between Oakland ARTCC (ZOA) and Los Angeles ARTCC (ZLA). It sits squarely in the middle of the central valley of California and poses challenges to aircraft transiting between the Bay Area and Southern California.

Traditionally, the FAA would utilize a contractor to study the proposed airspace changes and to conduct “Human in the Loop” (HITL) studies. This process was very expensive and typically took many months to complete. The technological limitations of the contractor often resulted in simulations that were far from realistic and offered little true insight into the problem being studied.

Utilizing the capabilities of the ERAM TTL platform, specialists at ZOA were able to develop simulation problems derived from actual traffic days between ZOA and ZLA. Initially ZLA automation was loaded into ZOA ERAM by Tech Center personnel, enabling dual ARTCC simulations. Using Falcon data and actual filed flight plans, scenario developers created realistic simulations of current air traffic. Using the same traffic, the scenarios demonstrated the current state of traffic flows and how the expanded use of the SUA will impact the National Airspace System (NAS).

The ERAM TTL enabled ZOA and ZLA sectors to run scenarios interacting real time with each other in a realistic environment, enabling an extensive analysis of safety risk management and possible mitigations. Using the ERAM TTL creates a realism of automation and aircraft performance never before seen using the legacy DYSIM system. Each of the air traffic controllers involved in the HITL process stated that the scenarios that they worked “actually represented an accurate depiction of the traffic that they worked at their facilities.” This capability has historically been a sorely missed component in risk analysis within the FAA.

The data gleaned from these tests was then used to conduct a collaboratively established Safety Risk Management Analysis (SRM). The SRM panel consisted of members of management from the Western Service Center, ZLA, ZOA and Northern California TRACON; representatives from the Navy, NAS Lemoore; and bargaining unit members from each of the represented facilities, including TMU. Scott Conde served as NATCA’s representative for the Western Pacific Region. The SRM process took a day and a half and resulted in consensus decisions regarding the impacts and potential mitigation strategies to employ if the airspace change is implemented.

The success of this effort highlights the ability of our system to produce high quality work in support of the NAS mission when the work is collaboratively accomplished. The work performed was completed in a fraction of the time that normally would have been required, and for a much lower cost to the agency than seeking a lower grade product from a contractor. The hard work of the ZOA scenario development team produced quality testing scenarios that have never before been possible in a simulated environment. This process could become the new standard in our industry.

NATCA wishes to thank those members involved with the success of this project.

Scenario Development:

Dennis Cassalia (Retired Natca Member)
Patricia Leyn (ZOA)
Mark Gauch (ZOA)
Eric Booe (ZOA)

HITL Testing/SRM:

Mark Nullman (ZLA)
Kyle Green (ZLA)
Tom Phan (ZOA)
Kevin Prickett (ZOA)
Matt McNelley (ZOA)
Wes Dale (ZOA)
Eric Booe (ZOA)
James Deignan (ZOA)
Bob Newray (ZOA)
Kurt McAninch (ZOA)
Jeff Koger (ZOA)
Scott Conde (ZOA)

Navy SRM Members: Todd Nelson, Cori Kindig-Evans, Sid Gilman, Scott Nuxoll

FAA Management SRM Members: Jay R Murphy, David Paxton, Mike Tarrant, Mindy Wright, Tom Holifield, Steve Fragas, Kaila Flores, John Fisher