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Air Traffic Controllers Endorse Lockheed Martin Oceanic System - (6/21/2001)

WASHINGTON – The National Air Traffic Controllers Association resoundingly endorses the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to award the contract for the Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures (ATOP) program to Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management.

Lockheed successfully competed for ATOP using its Oceans 21 system. Controllers will use it in oceanic and offshore airspace at the Anchorage, Alaska, New York and Oakland, Calif., en route facilities. They provide air traffic control services for aircraft traveling over 28 million square miles of the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Over the last year and a half, a team of 11 NATCA oceanic air traffic controllers has worked closely with the FAA as part of the Air Traffic Operational Evaluation Team. The group was tasked with evaluating oceanic air traffic control systems to determine if they were suitable to control oceanic and offshore airspace. During the analysis, the controllers trained on the candidate equipment and conducted extensive hands-on operational trials before analyzing the operational and technical proposals. The team’s written findings were the basis of the FAA’s assessment of each proposed system’s suitability and led to the selection of Oceans 21.

Oceans 21 will provide controllers with much needed tools to handle projected traffic growth in the oceanic regions over the next 10 years. These enhancements include satellite-based air-ground communications and surveillance, an advanced interface for coordination with adjacent air traffic control facilities, and better tools for conflict detection and resolution integrated seamlessly in a graphical controller situation display. Currently, oceanic air traffic controllers track aircraft using plastic plotting boards and paper flight progress strips.

The Oceans 21 system automates these manual processes, freeing the controller to respond more rapidly to aircraft requests and proactively manage traffic situations. Consequently, they can provide more options and flexibility to pilots, while maintaining high standards of safety.

“NATCA’s in-depth participation in the ATOP acquisition represents a new direction for both NATCA and the FAA,” said Kevin Chamness, NATCA’s project liaison on oceanic control issues. “In conducting the evaluation, NATCA identified operational issues on each evaluated system for resolution before the agency awarded a contract, greatly reducing the risks associated with controller acceptance.”

Prior to the contract award, NATCA and the FAA reached agreement on the changes to the Lockheed system that are necessary for its use in Anchorage, New York and Oakland, as well as a process for managing future operational issues. NATCA will work with the FAA to ensure Oceans 21, its associated training materials and procedures meet the controllers’ needs before its scheduled operation at the Oakland facility in April 2003, followed by New York later that year, and Anchorage in early 2004.

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