The Air Traffic Control System Engineering Essay


This paper shows the need for an air traffic controls (ATC) system in the Federation Aviation Administration. Air transport is estimated to grow at the rate of 2% annually. Also, there has been an increased threat on the air security due to the vulnerability of the current ATC system. With the current system, air traffic is characterized by air traffic congestion where airlines have to follow a destined route to the destined destination. Aldo the visibility of pilots is low during poor weather and the pilot has to change from one controller to another whenever he enters a mew zone. Also the current ATC system is vulnerable to unauthorized access to external users who can badly interfere with the entire air transport.

With the above problems, the FAA decided to venture in to research to develop a new air traffic control system that is not only more effective but efficient. The new system nextgen is very efficient and will assist FAA deal with increased air traffic congestion, visibility, safety and the improvement of service delivery in the entire air traffic system. Above all, it will guarantee security to FAA's public information.

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

This is an organization in the U.S that is concerned with air transport regulation. It regulates the air transport sector overseeing all civil aviation aspects in the country. It was formed in 1958 under the federal aviation act with name federal aviation agency. After becoming part of the U.S transport department, it changed its name to Federal Aviation Administration in 1967.

FAA mission: provision of the safest and the most efficient aerospace system worldwide.

FAA vision: continuity in the improvement of safety in the transport sector as well as flight efficiency. They are responsible to the customers and the entire flying public. Their accountability responsibility is to the taxpayers.

FAA core Values: the core values of FAA include:

Safety: this is their passion. They lead in aerospace worldwide

Quality: this is their trademark. Through this, they serve the entire country, their stake holder, customers and others.

Integrity: this is their main character. They always do the right thing even though no one could be watching.

People: this is where they draw their strength. They do to people what they like to be done to them.

The FAA performs the following functions

Regulation function: through this, it regulates the commercial air transport sector in the U.S. it also regulates the geometry of the air navigation facilities. In addition to that, it inspects flights to ensure high security standards and efficiency. The FAA also regulates the entire civil aviation to ensure that safety is guaranteed. This it achieves through the flight standards district offices.

It is responsible for encouragement and the development of aeronautics which may include development of new technology in aviation.

The FAA through its training and testing it issues suspends and revokes the certificates of pilots.

Air traffic control: the FAA is responsible for the development and the operation of air traffic control system and the navigation system for the military aircrafts and the civil aircrafts in the .U.S.

Research: this is a very important function of the FAA. It carries out research concerning the latest technology and security and safety systems in the U.S. in addition to this; it develops and carries out programs that control aircrafts' noise and other environmental effects including air pollution of gas emissions by aircrafts.

Why the need for an air traffic control system

As stated above, traffic control is part of the functions of the FAA. Through this function, the FAA is responsible for the development implementation and monitoring of air traffic control in the U.S. the air traffic control system is used to monitor and control movements of aircrafts in the air preventing accidents and enhancing safety in the air transportation. To manage its functions, it has established many underground stations that are used to monitor the movements of planes in the space. The underground stations use the radar in their air operations.

The underground system that is fitted with radars in addition to an army of controllers that are used to move planes form one place to another. Through these stations, the controllers are direct the pilots throughout the flight. This system of air traffic control forces planes to fly paths that are congested and fixed. Unfortunately, the technology that is used is the old school type of technology. They use radars that are over thirty years old. In addition to that, the other systems and buildings are old more than thirty years. The system sometimes grinds to a halt during bad weather forcing many air movements of planes to stop for some time. This costs the U.S economy Billions of dollars annually.

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With the current system, the pilot pulls the plane far away from the gate, he is forced to request a controller who is not committed to step in and position it for take off. After take off, the pilot is expected to change to another controller before it reaches 23000 feet. Thereafter he shifts to the third controller. Whenever the pilot enters a new zone, he must change the controller. If by any bad luck the weather gets bad, then the traffic congestion increases.

The overall systems and the buildings that FAA uses are very old, as old as 30 years. In fact some buildings have leaking roofs. Similar to old buildings, the air traffic control system is old school that uses radar for the communication and location and guidance of pilots and planes. The poor maintenance has cost FAA efficiency in its operations in air traffic control system. The system is not effective enough and results in a lot of air traffic congestion during bad weather.

The current air traffic control (ATC) systems are not safe. ATC systems use web applications that are not safe since they are not secured properly for attack and unauthorized access prevention. The web applications are used internally for FAA staff communication and externally for the communication of pilots and aircraft controllers. From the investigation carried out by KPMG, these web applications are vulnerable to attacks by unauthorized outsiders with malicious intentions. Through the attacks, the intruder can get access to the systems of computer where he can execute commands that are remote.

The risks involved include the vulnerabilities of the web package to allow unauthorized people to access web applications that are made use buy the ATC system hence compromising the safety of the travelers. In overall, the ATC system is at risk if the web application computers are vulnerable to any outsider access. They pose a threat of security to the travelling crew and the entire public at large. With the vulnerability, the system is no longer considered safe because of the risks involved. Another threat posed by the vulnerability of the ATC systems web applications is the grounding of the entire air traffic control system when a malicious person gets access to ATC system computers. This will result into a major crisis.

Research and development of new technology is another function of the FAA. By utilizing this function, they have come up with a new technology that will replace the old school use of radar in traffic controls. The system is called nextgen air traffic control system. It is better than the current radar system because it use satellites in controlling the air traffic and the global positioning system. Through the new nextgen system, the airspace will be freed since the system is GPS-based. The capacity of the airport will be increased with enhanced safety. Through this system, planes will have direct flights to their destinations.

The nextgen system gives the controllers of the positions of every plane, then the pilot gets communication in form of a message from the cockpit, cuts radio communication and then he is ready to take off after speeding up the clearance. This is an example given of how the new system can control a plane to take off. It is different from the old school use of radar that requires the pilot to change controllers every time he enters a new environment.

Through the new system, the pilot can see all planes on the ground even during bad weather hence increased safety and visibility. The nextgen system consists of RNAV system that enables several departures from all runways at a go clearing congestion in the airspace almost immediately. Once the pilots reach the required altitude, they do not need to follow any of the ground based controller's fixed routes. In addition to that, they have the ability to avoid bad weather and traffic congestion. On landing, the new system starts to queue plane hundreds of miles away. Unlike the current approach that uses the step down approach, the nextgen system uses a smooth continuous approach to landing.

SWOT Analysis

Due to uncertainties about the future and the surrounding situations that affect the development of a project, it is good to the SWOT analysis. This involves the analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and the threats that are associated with the new project. By the analysis of SWOT, FAA can know whether to implement the new air transport system or not. And in case they implement it, they will be in a position to know the benefits they are to reap, the weaknesses of the system and the possible threats to the security and the safety of air transport. The below situations provide and insight of the overall air traffic control system.

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Strength: through nextgen air traffic control system, there is improved visibility. The pilot is in a position to see all the traffic on the ground before landing. Visibility is clear even during bad weather. This will reduce accidents and increase safety.

Strength: there is no switching of controllers every time the pilot moves from one zone to the other. The system does it automatically on his behalf.

Strength: there is reduced air traffic. The traffic is not congested as the landing queue starts many miles away. So the pilot does not have to wait for long since every plane is given its own schedule to land.

Strength: Air transport will be fast. There will be no delays since plane will be taking direct flights to destinations. Therefore the level of business will go a notch higher than it is today.

Weaknesses: the system is very expensive to develop and to install. It is estimated that the project requires $40 billion. It the federal government is to implement this project, it will have to forego many other important projects I order to install it.

Weakness: every thing will not be new at ago. The nextgen system will be incorporated with the current system. There will not be an overhaul of the current system at once. The implementation will be gradual (FAA, 2010. p. 37).

Opportunity: it is possible to monitor the movement of planes in the air even during bad weather. The signals from the satellites are very powerful and the safety of air transport sector will increase.

Opportunity: planes will have an opportunity to go directly to their desired destination without going through other routes that are undesirable. This is because of reduced air traffic congestion and the ability of pilots to see all the traffic in the air.

Opportunity: the environment will realize less pollution. This is because nextgen has policies put in place to reduce all types of pollutions to the environment ranging from noise pollution to the emissions from the aircrafts.

Opportunity: the flight controllers will have an opportunity to get information conveyed directly from the satellite. They do not have to rely on the radar any more for flight information. This is fast, easy and convenient.

Opportunity: areas that could not be reached previously will be reached because the plane can be traced and the pilot has a free flow of all information. These areas include Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

Threats: the implementation of the project is too expensive bearing in mind the number of people to be trained, the resources in terms of money, equipment and technology. Since the government intends to obtain the funds through increased fuel taxes, the small airlines are to suffer.

Due to the above expected benefits and opportunities, the FAA started working on a new ATC system that can work effectively without any problems. The system uses satellites and does not depend on the radar system. The pilot is monitored by the satellite and the signals are relayed back to the ground. The nextgen system is very effective in relaying fears about the safety of air transportation. Through the new system, there is reduced air traffic congestion and the visibility is increased even in bad weather conditions. The pilot is in a position to take a direct flight to the desired destination.

Importance of information system to the FAA

The implementation of the new ATC system nextgen will increase FAA capability to handle the issues related to information management. The current system has failed to produce safety in the air transport sector. The vulnerability of external user or unauthorized people accessing the web applications that are used by ATC is high. Through the implementation of nextgen, FAA will be in apposition to improve on its information security. It will be hard for the any unauthorized person to access the nextgen web applications since a very high technology will be used. More so, it will be controlled by the satellite.

FAA needs to install Nextgen in order to improve air visibility. In the current ATC system, air visibility is very poor especially during bad weather. This is the reason for many air crashes. With nextgen, visibility will be high even during bad weather hence increased safety in the air transport.

FAA is responsible for the speed of conducting global business. With the adoption of nextgen, the speed of doing business globally will improve due to the feature of direct flight that comes with the new system.

FAA wants the new system in order to improve the communication between the pilot and the controllers on the ground. The signals that are conveyed in nextgen are very powerful that they cannot be lost even during bad weather. This will help in the decongestion of the air transport. Landing and take off will be easier and faster. With this technology, air transport will be available in regions that it is currently not available like Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

FAA wants to increase monitoring its plane without the interruption of bad weather. Also with high information security; they will improve on their efficiency and effectiveness. All intruders hacking into the system's web applications will not be successful and the safety of air crews will be guaranteed. Thus the major goals that FAA seeks to achieve by implementing nextgen is to improve on air safety, improve information security through restricted access and to increase air transport activities and thus the volume of air transport. This ill be good for the entire economy since the level f business will be increased.

Political, Cultural, and Organizational Environmental Factors Affecting Nextgen

Political stability is very important in the take off of this nextgen project. Through the political stability, the economy would grow providing the federal government with the funds to fund the project. In addition to that, the lack of political interference in the implementation of the project will enable the effective launch and implementation of the project.

The main goal of organization is to minimize costs and maximize the profits they make. This culture of organizations will make them want to increase the level of business. They want the rate of carrying out transactions to be increased. This will be made possible through the implementation of nextgen project. Through this project the businesses will benefit a great deal and they contribute to its success.

Required Resources for Nextgen Project

For effective pick up of the new project, various resources are required by FAA. The resources are many and varied. They include resources like human, technical know how, material and capital.

Human capital; this involves the required workforce that is required to implement the project. They include the unskilled and the semiskilled labor that will be used in the implementation process.

Technical labor: this is the skilled labor that is required for the implementation of the project. They include skilled manpower that will be working on design, planning and the entire technical requirements of the project. Pilots and controllers are major contributors to the effectiveness of the project. Nextgen uses advanced technology that requires the incorporation of all the parties in its implementation. The IT personnel are very important to the achievement of the goals of nextgen. Safety and security of data is handled by the IT personnel. They secure that web application packages that are to be used by FAA. They ensure proper installation of software to equipment.

All planes and airports will have to use the same technology as nextgen. To realize this, FAA ahs started collaborating with other international partners like the SESAR. This enables FAA to link its nextgen technology with other international partners. Research professionals and scientists also add to the list of the required personnel since they will be working on the future improvement of the project. The research scientists are necessary for the development of a satellite that uses the required technology. The IT personnel are responsible for the necessary software that the satellite and the whole system require.

Material capital: the technology involved in nextgen is advanced. All parties must be involved for successful implementation of nextgen. There is necessary equipment to be purchased by FAA to be used in the project. All Airports have to comply with the new technology because they are the major determinants of nextgen success. FAA has already started to upgrade some airports to use the new technology.

Capital: this involves land, heavy machinery and buildings. It is estimated that air transport sector grows by 2% annually. Therefore, to accommodate this change, FAA needs to increase the capacity of airports. This requires land for expansion. Stakeholders must undertake to purchase the necessary capital for the project to take off.

Stakeholders: These factors also include the stakeholder. These are all the parties that have an interest in the project. Stakeholders are responsible for the funding of the project. The stakeholders of nextgen involve both the public and the private sectors. The nextgen system is in a position to create a solution that benefits the employees, the federal government, airlines, the FAA and the public. They are expected to provide funds for the development of the project and further research of the project on how it can be improved to better the services it provides. Through the assistance of the stakeholders, it will be possible for FAA to achieve a good effective and efficient air transport which is part of their goals.

FAA Organizational chart

Regional administrator central region

Regional administrator Alaskan region

Regional administrator eastern region

Regional administrator western pacific region

Regional administrator New England region

Regional administrator great lakes region

Regional administrator southern region

Regional administrator northwest mountain region

Aeronautic center director

Regional administrator southern region

Assistant administrator for information services/ chief information officer AIO-1

Associate administrator for regulation and certification AVR-1

Acting associate administrator for air traffic services ATS-1

Assist administrator for financial services ABA-1

Assistant administrator for system safety ASY-1

Assistant administrator for public affairs APA-1

Chief counsel AGC- 1

Assistant administrator for policy, planning and international aviation API-1

Assistant administrator for government and industry affairs AGI-1

Assistant administrator for civil rights ACE-1

Assistant administrator for human resource mgmt AHR-1

Administrator AOA-1

Deputy Administrator ADA-1

Associate administrator for research and acquisitions ARA-1

Assistant administrator for region/ center operations ARC-1

Associate administrator for airports APR-1

Associate administrator for commercial space transportation AST-1

('Archives', 2002. P. 1)

Human resource requirements for Nextgen

Training: nextgen requires highly skilled and flexible labor force. Due to advance technology that nextgen a use, FAA has taken the initiative to train and develop the required labor. Certification of the necessary disciplines is underway. The training of labor force includes the training of pilots that are to run planes with the new technology. Since 2009 to 2011, it estimates to develop 350 skilled people to help in the development of nextgen. It has a plan in place to hire, develop, certify and retain competent and skilled workforce. This will enhance the implementation of nextgen.

FTE: FAA maintains a flexible workforce that is working +on nextgen. It has plans in place to increase the workforce until it reaches the operational level. An example is the increase of the flexible workforce of 350 between 2009 and 2011. It has plans to certify the necessary programs and disciplines that take into considerations the attritions and the retirements.

IT: the professionals in the IT field form the technical and operational workforce. Nextgen uses advanced technology. This includes the use of global positioning strategy. The IT personnel are to improve the information access and security so that no unauthorized person can hack into system and gain unauthorized access to FAA's information unless under permission.

RFP narrative: this research paper provides an insight of the air traffic control system that is in place to day and the need fro a new system. The FAA which is a body that is in charge of air transport safety, security and efficiency has undertaken the role to develop a new system that will replace the current radar system. The new nextgen system will use mainly the satellite and the global positioning system. The system is to ensure renewed information security for FAA information reduced air congestion and increased use of air transport.

The new system will require the FAA to demand for capital in terms of funds to develop the system, the necessary workforce both technical and semi skilled and unskilled labor and, equipment. FAA has a plan in place already for the progressive employment of workers. in the year 2009-2011, it has started by employing 350 employees. To minimize on costs, FAA will request other international airlines and airports to have the same technology so that there are no new equipment that are fixed on planes. However, the new system is still under testing and development.

It is expected that the new air traffic control system nextgen, will be fully operational by 2025. The estimated total cost for the project is $40 billion, of which $20 will be obtained from the federal government and the remaining $20 will obtained from the trust fund of FAA. The trust fund is used to accumulate the excise duty and taxes that FAA collects from fuel and planes. An estimated amount of $10 billion is to be used on training the workforce. The technicality of the workforce is vital for the high quality technology that the system uses and the achievement of the intended objectives.

FAA will achieve its objectives of improved information security, air safety and convenience in air transport sector. Effective implementation of Nextgen will be beneficial to business thus the economy of the state. Due to direct flights the speed of conducting business will increase resulting renewed growth of business hence economic growth. On the other hand, unauthorized people will have no access to the public information since the new information technology is very effective.

Budget narrative: it is estimated that the new system will cost the government $20 billion and the FAA $20 billion. Therefore the total cost of the nextgen air traffic control project will be $40 billion. Of this total cost, it will cost the FAA about $20 billion in training and purchasing of new equipment that are required. Staffing will cost about $10 billion while ownership by the stake holders will cost $10 billion. The funds that are set aside for training are to ensure that well trained personnel are employed in the project implementation process. In turn, efficiency and effectiveness will be realized in the whole air transport sector. In addition to that, air passengers and the public at large will experience safety while traveling and security of information for the FAA.

FAA intends to finance nextgen project by getting the initial $20 billion from the federal government. The government intends to set aside the above amount in its next budget so that the new air traffic control system can take off. On its part, FAA intends to obtain the funds for the project through its trust fund. The trust fund is an accumulation of the aviation taxes that is charged from jet fuel and the air tickets.