Michael Braukus Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1979) Michael Mewhinney Ames Research Center, Moffett Field

, CA (Phone: 650/604-3937) RELEASE: 99-143

December 10, 1999

NASA OPENS NEW, VIRTUAL AIRPORT CONTROL TOWER AT AMES "FutureFlight Central," the world's first full-scale virtual airport-control tower, will open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, Dec. 13, at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA. Constructed at a cost of $10 million, the two-story FutureFlight Central facility was jointly funded by NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The facility is designed to test -- under realistic airport conditions and configurations - ways to solve potential air and ground traffic problems at commercial airports. "NASA's FutureFlight Central is a world-class research facility dedicated to addressing the future needs of the nation's airports," said Ames Center Director Henry McDonald. "This facility will allow NASA, the FAA and their research partners to examine ways to increase the flow of aircraft through the national airspace system safely, efficiently and under all weather conditions." Among the invited guests to the ribbon-cutting ceremony are NASA Associate Administrator for Aero-Space Technology Spence Armstrong, FAA Administrator Jane F. Garvey, state and local legislators, and a host of top officials from government, industry and academia. FutureFlight Central will permit integration of tomorrow's technologies in a risk-free simulation of any airport, airfield, and tower-cab environment. The facility provides an opportunity for airlines and airports to mitigate passenger delays by finetuning airport hub operations, gate management, ramp-movement procedures, and various other airport improvements. Finally, it enables air traffic controllers to provide input and become

familiar with new airport operations and technologies before construction is completed. Real people interact in the live-action simulation just as in a real airport. Up to 12 air traffic controllers in the tower cab are in direct communication through a simulated radio and phone system with pilots and ramp controllers at stations on the first floor. "We can simulate any airport in the world," said Nancy Dorighi, FutureFlight Central facility manager. "The threedimensional visual model of an airport is viewed out the 360degree windows of the tower cab. The visual scene, along with specific airport traffic patterns, fleet mix and procedures, makes this a very credible operational test-bed." It is anticipated that airport and airline management and researchers will want to look primarily at the feasibility, safety and reliability and cost benefits of technologies prior to incorporating them into airports. In addition, testing will provide information that may assist in developing proposed changes to airport ground procedures and the construction of new airport facilities. "This is a totally new approach to tower- or airporttraffic planning that wasn't possible just a few years ago," said Dorighi. Twelve rear-projection video screens provide a seamless 360degree high-resolution view of the airport or other scenes being depicted. The imaging system, powered by supercomputers, provides a realistic view of weather conditions, environmental and seasonal effects and the movement of up to 200 active aircraft and ground vehicles. The facility is dedicated to the memory of Stanton R. Harke, the facility's first project manager, who passed away on April 25, 1999, at 58 from cancer. - end NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: News media are invited to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, for NASA's new FutureFlight Central on Monday, Dec. 13 starting at 9 a.m. (PST). News media may register in the tent outside the facility at 7:30 a.m. (PST). Tours of the facility for news media will be provided following the ceremony. To get to

Ames, take the Moffett Field exit off Highway 101. At the Moffett Federal Airfield main gate, turn right into a small parking lot and enter the Visitor Badging Office to obtain your entry badges. You must bring your press credentials and photo ID to gain admittance. Images of the facility are available on the Internet at: http://ffc.arc.nasa.gov 2