ERAM Making Positive Strides
Friday, November 16, 2012

NATCA En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) Lead and Northwest Mountain Regional Vice President Jim Ullmann said NATCA continues to work closely with the FAA on the collaborative implementation of ERAM. Ullmann said that most recently, Oakland Center (ZOA) and Los Angeles Center (ZLA) declared ERAM continuous operations while Kansas City Center (ZKC), Indianapolis Center (ZID) and Boston Center (ZBW) reached ERAM Initial Operating Capability (IOC).

Ullmann said, “While this program is undoubtedly one of the single biggest programs in the entire U.S. government, the hard work of literally hundreds of NATCA members has resulted in continued positive strides with ERAM implementation across the National Airspace System (NAS).”

NATCA National ERAM Representative and New York Center (ZNY) Facility Representative Julio Henriques said that ZNY declared IOC on Nov. 10, after successfully transitioning to ERAM live operations for a few hours. Henriques said the run went very smoothly due to the hard work of the ZNY ERAM team, led by George Acampora.

“I have been impressed with the collaborative effort of all those involved in ERAM at ZNY,” said Henriques. “ZNY will continue to do short ERAM transition runs on the midnight shifts with a goal of longer runs in January.”

ZNY is the 13th facility of 20 ERAM sites to achieve ERAM IOC. Those 13 facilities include the aforementioned as well as Seattle Center (ZSE), Salt Lake City Center (ZLC), Minneapolis Center (ZMP), Albuquerque Center (ZAB), Denver Center (ZDV), Chicago Center (ZAU), Houston Center (ZHU), Los Angeles Center (ZLA) and Oakland Center (ZOA). Of those 13 facilities, seven are running continuous operations on ERAM — ZSE, ZLC, ZMP, ZAB, ZDV, ZLA and ZOA. Henriques said that overall, they continue to make progress with ERAM as each software build resolves the issues that have been identified by previous ERAM user sites, enabling a smoother transition at the future sites.  

ZLA NATCA Facility Representative Nate Pair said the facility has been running ERAM continuous operations for approximately seven weeks. He is impressed with the exceptional performance and flexibility of the ZLA controller workforce and said they have fully embraced ERAM, though many issues still need to be addressed in future software releases.

“ERAM requires change, and we all know how much controllers like change,” said Pair. “However, our members have been very receptive and take full advantage of the new functionality that this new system brings to the operations floor.”

On the overall progress of ERAM, Pair said it is a system that will require constant attention for the coming months, in order to show it is the only automation system that ZLA and other centers need.

“Across the country we are working together with management and holding everyone accountable for the product being delivered to the operational floor,” said Pair. “ERAM is running at a very aggressive pace and our NATCA members working on the project play a vital role in continuing to give the system the checks and balances it requires. We are so proud of all our Brothers and Sisters who have stepped up to make ERAM a success."

Oakland Center (ZOA) NATCA ERAM Principal Facility Representative (PFR) Ian Fullmer said that by comparison to previous sites, ZOA’s transition to continuous operations has been relatively smooth. They were fortunate enough to have intrepid key sites and have early waterfall centers as trailblazers, which cleared the early ERAM software minefield. Additionally, Fullmer said the top NATCA Subject Matter Expert controllers (SMEs) throughout the country have helped controllers new to ERAM feel at ease, and complemented the ZOA local team.

Fullmer said the main challenge at ZOA at the moment is to complete the analysis and scrubbing of the hundreds of trouble tickets that have generated over the last two months. Once that is complete, ZOA intends to prioritize and reconcile the catalogue of problem reports against the ERAM software delivery schedule. At that time ZOA will be able to definitively plan its pathway to Operational Readiness Demonstration (ORD), a status that only, so far, ZSE and ZLC have declared.
“Our team will continue our efforts to make ERAM a better system through ongoing testing and collaboration with our local automation staff,” said Fullmer.