ATSAP Resolves Automated Routing Glitch at Dulles
Thursday, May 03, 2012
Thanks to controllers filing ATSAP reports, an automation snag that
added to their workload and potentially threatened safety in the
Washington, D.C. area has been resolved.
A flight restricted zone
(FRZ), instituted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, banned
foreign carriers and general aviation aircraft from a frequently used
eastbound Washington Dulles International Airport departure route. But
until recently, Host, the en route computer system that processes flight
plans, treated plans complying with the security zone restrictions as
incorrect and moved the flights to a route through the FRZ.
glitch created extra work for controllers on the clearance delivery
position at Washington Dulles Tower (IAD), who had to manually reroute as many as 100
flights a day away from the FRZ. It also affected Washington Center
(ZDC) and Potomac TRACON (PCT), which assisted IAD controllers when they were inundated with rerouting work.
carriers “would file a route to take them out around the FRZ and the
computer would stick them back on a route to fly through the FRZ,” said
Todd Warr, an IAD staff specialist.
General aviation pilots who
knew of the FRZ would file flight plans to take them around it, and the
same thing would happen to them. But quite a few didn’t know of the
restrictions and the Host system allowed them to file plans to fly
through the secure airspace.
Controllers filed ATSAP reports
about the situation because they felt the extra work could lead to a
safety issue. NATCA and management representatives formed a group with
input from all three facilities and held several meetings to come up
with a solution.
“ATSAP resulted in the first big effort to solve
[the issue],” Warr said. The solution has eliminated at least 95
percent of the manual reroutes, he said.
“I can't overemphasize
how big this issue was for all three facilities,” said Scott Starkey,
the NATCA facility representative at IAD. “Pilots were getting in
trouble for filing routes that they should know they are not allowed to
fly. Other pilots were being deviated. Many were chased out of the FRZ
and [ended up] on the news. Prior to ATSAP, controllers at Dulles were
being decertified and retrained for not manually fixing this bad routing
that bad automation was causing.”
Controllers would often have
to make the most out of the manual reroutes during the busy evening
departure rush when international carriers leave Dulles, Warr said.
During the summer, FRZ reroutes were often made at the same time
controllers were slammed with rerouting planes around thunderstorms.
years this problem could not be solved,” said Jim Slate, air traffic
manager at IAD. “Then the issue was raised through ATSAP, and now the
routing and automation issues caused by the added security measures have
largely been mitigated. It was great how well the three facilities
worked out a solution.”
The breakthrough idea came from Dulles, said Phil Kain, the Program Operations field manager at ZDC.
By processing aircraft by categories, the Host computer system would know which planes should fly around the FRZ.
we put all general aviation aircraft in a category, we could create a
set of preferential routes that apply only to general aviation
aircraft,” he said.
Host can put aircraft in just a limited
number of categories, but because of a recent Host cleanup effort to
prepare for En Route Automation Modernization, or ERAM, at ZDC, a
category was available.
“Host (now) applies routes that take
general aviation flights around the FRZ, but allow air carriers to fly
through it,” Kain said.
Host also now automatically reroutes general aviation flight plans now that mistakenly intrude on the FRZ.
was not another category available for the international carriers, but a
change was made to the way Host processes routes and the automation
system now permits those flights to bypass the FRZ.
The solution has eliminated at least 95 percent of the manual reroutes, Warr said.
used to receive discrepancy forms every day,” Warr said. Controllers
would file them “due to their frustration that the problem hadn't been
corrected. And now I don't receive any. Folks are extremely happy with
the end result.”
The positive effects of the resolution have extended beyond the issue with the FRZ, according to Starkey.
this issue with ATSAP at Dulles has had a bigger impact then you may
think,” he said. “Everyone at Dulles now sees that this ATSAP program
works. ATSAP has become an easy sell for me both as the Fac Rep and as
the Dulles NATCA ATSAP instructor. The controllers, front line managers
and staff all now see the benefits of ATSAP.”