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


February 14, 1996

Michael Mewhinney Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA (Phone: 415/604-9000) Les Dorr, Jr. Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/267-3461) RELEASE: 96-31 NASA/FAA TESTING NEW AIR TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT TOOL NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are testing a new software tool designed to help air traffic controllers manage aircraft more efficiently and reduce delays by up to 20 percent. Tests of the Final Approach Spacing Tool (FAST), developed by NASA's Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA, are being conducted at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport's (DFW) Terminal Radar Control Facility. Tests of the first phase began last week and will continue through May. "We believe that FAST can provide valuable benefits to all airspace users," said Robert M. Valone, Director of FAA's Office of Air Traffic Systems Development. "The tests at DFW will help us prove that." "The main purpose of these field tests is to validate the new software tools before the FAA displays them nationally," said Tom Davis, an Ames aerospace engineer and FAST project leader. The project goal is to have FAST installed in 5-10 airports by the year 2000. "If FAST is implemented on a national basis, we should see a significant decrease in delays and an increase in capacity at major airports," Davis said. He said FAST could increase an airport's capacity to handle arriving aircraft by 20 to 30 percent while reducing arrival delay times by 20 percent.

"This system also will assist controllers in making runway assignments which should help decrease arrival delays, particularly during marginal weather conditions," said Earl Wolfe, manager of air traffic control for American Airlines. -more-2"We're looking forward to cooperating with the FAA and NASA and doing the prototype at DFW," Wolfe said. "We expect that this system will be of great assistance to both controllers and the airline industry in increasing efficiency and capacity of airports throughout the United States in the coming years." Depending on the size of the aircraft, FAA separation criteria require aircraft to stay three to six miles apart from each other for safety reasons. "Controllers typically will give themselves an extra buffer of approximately half a mile between aircraft in order to guarantee they can meet the spacing requirements," Davis said. "We can safely reduce that buffer by two-tenths to three-tenths of a mile with this technology," he said. "When you add up how that affects more than one hundred airplanes arriving each hour at a major airport like Dallas Fort Worth, this will substantially increase the airportÕs arrival capacity," Davis said. "This should result in significant savings to the airlines and hopefully, lower ticket prices for passengers." The main function of FAST is to provide advisories to help controllers manage arriving aircraft and achieve an accurately spaced flow of traffic on final approach. The field tests will investigate the FAST advisories that recommend which runway to land on and the landing sequence for the aircraft. "FAST accurately predicts arrival times based on specific knowledge of the type of aircraft, weather conditions and airport landing procedure," Davis said. FAST

also advises the air traffic controllers how to accurately meet the schedule and assure the required aircraft separations for safety purposes. "FAST issues advisories to the air terminal radar controllers recommending which runway to land, aircraft landing sequence, where to turn and where to slow down in order to implement this reorganized plan all the way to the runway," Davis said. Research and development of the FAST software began at Ames in 1989. In 1991 the FAA began a joint research effort with NASA to take the newest technology available and incorporate it into their facilities and equipment to improve their service to all of the users in the National Airspace System. -end-