ERAM Test Proves a Success for ZLA
Thursday, June 21, 2012

As facilities across the country prepare for the gradual installation of the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) program, Los Angeles Center (ZLA) conducted its first full-day test of the system last Saturday, June 16. And ZLA’s lead ERAM representatives said it went as well as could possibly be expected.

Nearly 160 controllers, or more than half the facility’s workforce, gained valuable experience with the ERAM system during the 21 consecutive hours of testing. The test was by far the facility’s longest extended operation of the program. During the operations, controllers were surveyed on how they felt the program was running, and the response was overwhelmingly positive, according to Chad Hill, ZLA’s ERAM lead.

“This was a great success,” Hill said. “We feel confident that though we have a challenging road ahead, our goal of full implementation is just a matter of progress and time.”

ZLA Facility Representative Nate Pair said he, Hill, subject matter experts and facility management met every two hours during the daylong run to collaboratively discuss how the operation was going. They discussed whether various benchmarks were being hit throughout the day, and they consistently were.

Hill said the team at ZLA recorded a total of 140 issues, which included reported problems from neighboring facilities. This extended period of operation gave the team an opportunity to stress the software and benchmark the program’s progress.  

“The controllers didn’t know we were meeting to decide whether or not to continue on the live operational run, because we wanted them focused on the job at hand,” Pair said. “But every two hours, we met, and we always were happy with what we saw.”

Pair lauded the work of his controllers, and said they set the stage for a 48-hour test next week and a 72-hour test next month. He said he won’t know for sure how successful ERAM will be until that three-day test, which will start on a Friday and go into a heavy Monday morning traffic flow.

“I would like to think of this as the calm before the storm,” Pair said. “We have every reason to feel good about where this program is going, but until we see how it runs on a weekday, we really won’t know exactly what to expect.”

ZLA is one of five centers to have run limited live operations this year, with ZOA, ZMP, ZAB and ZAU conducting test runs as well. Meanwhile, ZDV has been on ERAM Continuous Ops since May 19, and ZSE and ZLC have been running ERAM for over a year.

Pair said ZLA has unique airspace issues and a wide mix of terrains, from tall mountains to the Pacific Ocean, which made their preparation especially critical. The longer tests are just weeks ahead, and Hill said the facility is trying to be as aggressive as possible with implementation. He noted that ZLA controllers enjoyed working with the system, and he praised NATCA’s involvement with the program.

“Everyone here is very proud of what we accomplished this weekend,” Hill said. “And I’m especially proud of my union brothers and sisters who continue to work and sacrifice to make this program a success.”