JUN 25, 2015 2:24 PM PDT

NASA's Next-gen Air Traffic Control System Will Vastly Improve US Air Travel

WRITTEN BY: Andrew J. Dunlop
For years air traffic controllers and pilots have been complaining that the United States has been using an antiquated air traffic control system that has barely changed since the 1960's. It's a valid complaint, and for years America's outdated air control system has been taking its toll, in terms of accidents and near accidents, the environment, in terms of wasted jet fuel as jets circle airports in holding patterns, and most noticeably to travelers, in terms of long delays for both arriving and departing fights. But, now, after decades of well-deserved criticism, the FAA is finally deploying a new air traffic control system developed by NASA called TSAS, a major upgrade that will address these concerns drastically improve air traffic management nationwide.

TSAS formerly called TSS will vastly streamline air travel.


The new TSAS system which stands for Terminal Sequencing And Spacing will be of major benefit to everyone involved in air travel from those who work in the industry to the general public. Up to this point much of the work done by air traffic controllers has been done literally by hand, in terms of keeping track of where the planes in their airspace are, when and where they can take off, when and where they can land, and when and where they have to remain circling the airport, waiting for spaces to open up on the runway and in the landing pattern. This has led to conditions that can go from intensely tedious to extremely stressful in a heartbeat. TSAS will take allow airports and pilots to start taking much fuller advantage of an important, but not all that well publicized change to the nation's air traffic control system that began back in 2010: switching from radar to GPS as the main tool for keeping track of planes in the air.



GPS is thirty times more accurate in terms of tracking planes than radar, which is a major step forward, but It also laid the foundation for so much more. TSAS will unlock a whole suite of capabilities inherent to a GPS system, but which weren't accessible to pilots and air traffic controllers until the new system's roll-out. It will enable pilots to use much more of their flight decks' automated capabilities, allowing pilots to hand over to the planes' computers many of the numerous, monotonous, small but crucial tasks, allowing pilots to devote more of their attention to flying their planes. TASA will also help pilots streamline the glide paths planes take as they are landing. TSAS will also enable air traffic controllers to automate many of the procedures and communications with flight crews they're now responsible for, easing their workload and allowing them to concentrate more on managing the planes in their airspace. These changes will, in turn, vastly benefit the general public by reducing emissions, noise, air traffic congestion and fuel consumption.

Edward Bolton Jr., assistant administrator for NextGen at the FAA says, "We look forward to seeing many benefits from TSAS. We expect that it will enhance existing technologies that we use to efficiently handle traffic in the airport environment."



(Sources: NASA, phys.org)
About the Author
  • Andrew J. Dunlop lives and writes in a little town near Boston. He's interested in space, the Earth, and the way that humans and other species live on it.
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