Technology Today - Home
 
 
Under the ATCOTS program, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Raytheon are responsible for ensuring that air traffic control specialists continue to provide the flying public with the high level of safety and professionalism it currently enjoys. A well trained and fully staffed air traffic control (ATC) workforce plays an essential role in fulfilling this responsibility.

The FAA employs more than 15,000 air traffic controllers. As shown in Figure 1, they work in various air traffic roles and facilities of varying sizes, safely guiding more than 50,000 aircraft through the National Airspace System (NAS) each day. These employees provide air navigation services to aircraft in the U.S. domestic airspace and in the 24.6 million square miles of international oceanic airspace delegated to the United States by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

During the next several years, 70 percent of the controller workforce will become eligible to retire. In order to meet the challenges of this wave of retirements and the increasing demand for air travel, the FAA is hiring and training approximately 17,000 new air traffic controllers during the next 10 years.


The ATCOTS challenge is to continue to provide current training services while implementing improvement initiatives designed to create a more effective, high quality and cost-efficient air traffic controller training process. Under this program, Raytheon successfully transitioned two legacy training support contracts, one at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City and the other across 159 field locations. In that 60-day process, more than 1,700 instructors and training support personnel were brought on board, both at Raytheon Technical Services Company and with subcontractor partners. By the end of 2009, all 315 FAA operational facilities will be supported under ATCOTS.

ATC Training: Current State and Future Needs
There are three phases of qualification training that a student goes through to reach Certified Professional Controller status: academy training, field training, and on-the job training (OJT). Raytheon develops and conducts training for the academy and field training phases, while the FAA retains full responsibility for OJT (live traffic). The current duration for training averages three years for an en route and oceanic-services student and two years for a terminalservices student.

The FAA has relied heavily on live-traffic OJT. More recently, it has begun fielding high-fidelity simulation systems at the academy as well as certain high-priority field facilities. The FAA's increased use of simulation takes pressure off of OJT while increasing training cycles for the student. Through visual representation of the complex ATC environment, these simulation systems support training of basic to more advanced ATC competencies and procedures including those focused on weather and unusual events. As shown in Figure 2, the current generation of simulators and embedded simulators provide realistic displays and full functionality for the ATC student.

The importance of success on this program is underscored by the FAA's efforts to modernize the NAS to meet future air traffic demand. These technological enhancements are prescribed by the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). NextGen is a wide-ranging transformation of the entire national air transportation system to meet future demands and avoid gridlock in the sky and on the runways. It aims to move away from legacy ground-based technologies to a new and more dynamic satellite-based technology. The goals for NextGen focus on significantly increasing the safety, security and capacity of air transportation operations, thereby improving the overall economic well-being of the country. These benefits are achieved through a combination of new procedures and advances in the technology deployed to manage passenger, air cargo, general aviation and ATC operations.

Raytheon's ATCOTS: Implementing NextGen Goals
Eight key capabilities are needed to achieve the NextGen goals:
  • Network-enabled information access
  • Performance-based services (now performance- based operations and services)
  • Weather assimilated into decision making
  • Layered, adaptive security
  • Broad-area precision navigation (now positioning, navigation and timing services)
  • Aircraft trajectory-based operations
  • Equivalent visual operations
  • Super-density arrival/departure operations
Raytheon is supporting the FAA effort to incorporate these capabilities into the ATC training curriculum, evolving ATCOTS simulation-based training in collaboration with these initiatives.

Today, student performance during the conduct of a simulation scenario exercise is evaluated using checklists administered by a subject matter expert air traffic controller instructor. Raytheon is focused on making this evaluation more objective by taking advanced radar analysis tools already in use by the FAA and applying them in a new wave to analyze student ATC performance in the simulation lab. These measurements focus on the students' ability to maintain aircraft vertical, lateral and longitudinal separation while adhering to required national and local air traffic control procedures. Examples of subsequent areas of improvement for the student may include a better understanding of aircraft types and characteristics, including wake turbulence or adherence to local noise abatement procedures, among others.

As shown in Figure 3, these tools support detailed analysis and reporting of aircraft trajectories. Using this approach to analyze recorded training exercises promises to provide near real-time insight into the ATC students' adherence to aircraft separation standards and local procedures while promoting air traffic control efficiency in vectoring and speed control.

Analysis and reporting tool provides detailed data for each aircraft trajectory in the simulation. This directly measures student control of that aircraft and supports comparisons with other aircraft, e.g., for adherence to separation standards.

ATCOTS is a metric-driven, performance based contract. The application of tools such as these will serve to directly support the collection of student performance metrics and drive improvement throughout the training program. ATCOTS' success is critical to preparing air traffic controllers for today's needs and for tomorrow's changing responsibilities. At the program level, Acceptable Performance Level measures focus on instructor staffing efficiency, training quality, effectiveness, efficiency, cost per developmental student, and time to certification.

Raytheon's technologies, Raytheon Six Sigma™ processes, and clear understanding of the customer's needs will support the Raytheon ATCOTS team in delivering exceptional training and improving the overall training process for the FAA.

Daniel McEleney