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A Modern-Day Rudolph

Air Traffic Tools Guide Flights – and even Santa Claus – to Their Destinations

Raytheon air traffic management technology and training help improve aviation around the globe.

The Arctic chill kisses the tip of his nose and reddens his cheeks. Snow drifts down from the sky, landing gently on his head. His flight crew checks everything twice as his team of co-pilots take their positions for this Christmas night. With one final hug from his wife, Santa is ready for flight.

Bellowing out his commands with a belly full of cheer – "Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen..." – off go his reindeer into the night sky so dark and so clear. Guiding the sleigh as the runners take off is Santa's navigation system: the famous Rudolph.

Much like Mr. Claus, aircraft pilots of all kinds have wanted a better understanding of what's going on around them during flight. This Christmas, Raytheon air traffic management solutions are improving aviation around the globe, guiding relatives home and – who knows? – perhaps even helping the FAA track Santa for the NORAD Santa Tracker website at http://www.noradsanta.org/

Raytheon's systems – despite their lack of reindeer powers – equip air traffic controllers with powerful new tools and even allows them to predict conflicts 99 minutes ahead of time using information transmitted by the aircraft themselves.

"They can actually see into the future and solve problems before they happen," said Bob Meyer, Raytheon's director of air traffic systems.

The systems also help boost the capacity of air routes, minimize travel delays and ensure safety.

In addition to the STARS traffic management system used by controllers, Raytheon makes the Digital Airport Surveillance Radar that tracks sleighs and other aircraft as they move across the sky. Its Wide Area Augmentation System improves the accuracy of GPS receivers so they can guide planes to a landing. Raytheon also makes the data systems that power aviation weather forecasts.

Raytheon even makes the famous "airport in a box," the Deployable Radar Approach Control System, or D-RAPCON. This is an entire approach control center that fits inside a few shipping containers. A small crew can set it up in a few hours. It's ideal for getting flights into disaster zones or remote locations like the North Pole. 

Pretty magical.

Raytheon has a long history of air traffic management dating back to the magnetrons, or radio transmitters, that it produced for early radar systems during World War II.

The company's air traffic solutions control 60 percent of the world's airspace. So if you're traveling this holiday season, there's a good chance we'll be helping you get to your destination safely. Even if your name's not Santa. 

Published: 10/23/2014

Last Updated: 12/21/2015

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