Don Nolan-Proxmire Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202-358-1983


November 2, 1995

Mike Mewhinney Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA (Phone: 415-604-3937) Jeffrey Thal Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, DC (Phone: 202-267-7344) RELEASE: 95-198 NASA/FAA TESTING NEW AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL TOOLS AT DENVER AIRPORT NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration have been field testing a new generation of tools at Denver's International Airport that will reduce delays and air traffic controller workload, and increase fuel efficiency for airplanes. Called the Descent Advisor (DA), the device is being tested at the airport's air route traffic control center. The DA, a component of a larger effort known as CTAS (for Center-TRACON Automation System), is one of three software tools designed to improve the efficiency of air traffic operations. "This is a significant milestone in the development of highly-capable decision-support software for air traffic controllers," said Dr. George Donohue, FAA's Associate Administrator for research and acquisitions. When implemented, CTAS will provide accurate route projections for the efficient sequencing of aircraft as they transition from en route to terminal airspace, identify potential aircraft conflicts and present options for resolving them, and develop a display and interface to the system for controllers. CTAS is under development at the Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA, in cooperation with the FAA.

The tests of the DA software involve more than 200 commercial flights arriving at Denver under a wide variety of weather, traffic and delay conditions. Tests also include the use of an air/ground datalink system to improve coordination between participating flights and the CTAS system by exchanging key data to improve both systems. -more-2Tests with both jet transport and turboprop commuter aircraft are being conducted during selected traffic periods of 60-90 minutes duration, two to three times per day, five days per week. The software assists air traffic controllers by providing them with time and location data for the efficient sequencing and separation of traffic in en route airspace as they near their destination airport. For flights arriving in high density terminal areas such as Denver, the software provides proposed routes for fuelefficient descents that accurately meet scheduled times of arrival. As part of CTAS, the software will complement other key technologies, such as datalink and advanced cockpit automation, to deliver maximum benefits to the aircraft operators. ÒPreliminary results are very good, with arrival time accuracy routinely within 20 seconds and often within 10. This accuracy was based on the issuance of a single clearance in cruise, nominally 25 miles prior to descent, for a trajectory-descent projection of about 15 minutes,Ó said Steven Green, an Ames aerospace engineer and NASAÕs Descent Advisor project manager. Currently, air traffic controllers routinely achieve an arrival time accuracy of about one minute using manual techniques. DA's goal is to reduce arrival time prediction accuracy to 20 seconds or less. This level of accuracy will improve traffic management sequencing and more than double the useful range of computer conflict prediction.

"An exciting thing about the development of CTAS is the early and continuing involvement of the ultimate users of the system - the controllers and the pilots - in the design and evaluation of this complex system," said Dr. Everett Palmer, an Ames researcher and the DA cockpit human factors lead. Following completion of the tests, a series of air traffic controller simulations will be conducted at Ames in preparation for the next series of field tests scheduled for October 1996. -endNASA press releases and other information are available automatically by sending an Internet electronic mail message to In the body of the message (not the subject line) users should type the words "subscribe press-release" (no quotes). The system will reply with a confirmation via E-mail of each subscription. A second automatic message will include additional information on the service. Questions should be directed to (202) 358-4043.