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Captain R. Michael Baiada
P.O. Box 794
Evergreen, CO 80439
National Civil Aviation Review Commission
October 8, 1997
The FAA is incapable of continuing to technically manage our nation's ATC system. They have proven time and again that they are unable to maintain the current system, let alone move the ATC system in to the 21st century. MLS and AAS were outright failures that cost the taxpayers billions. DSR and STARS, which I am told are already experiencing problems, cost Billions and are less capable than the systems they replace. GAO, DOT, CNA have continually chronicled FAA's inability to move technology into use. But the real downside is not the Billions that are wasted, it is the ever increasing risk to the flying public caused by the deterioration of what I consider a flight critical service - the separation of airplanes.
At a time when overall safety is increasing in our aviation system, the safety of the
Air Traffic Control system continues to spiral downward, yet little is done. The
increasing risk apparent in our Air Traffic Control (ATC) system demands a more rapid
solution than the FAA has proposed, or is even considering, for the foreseeable future.
The FAA was once a national treasure that was the model for aviation authorities
worldwide, but is now a national embarrassment. Instead of improvement, the FAA
simply shifts things around with little of substance actually being accomplished. FAA is
always late off the mark and never seems to get it right. For the twenty years I have
worked with the FAA, involved in various projects (many ATC-related), and as a Captain for
a major airline, none of this surprises me any longer. What is surprising is that nothing
is ever done about it.
In 1994, Michael Boyd, Norm Watts and I forced the concept of Free Flight to center stage. Although the term and general concept have languished in never-never land for years, it was our group that brought it to the forefront as a technically viable, marketable concept. While the "experts" criticized us then, and continue to criticize us now, they conveniently forget that we took Free Flight to Congress. The "experts" forget that my partners and I introduced the Free Flight concept to Dave Watrous of RTCA and Lane Speck of FAA. They forget that the RTCA Free Flight Select Committee (the industry voice for Free Flight) was our idea and that we wrote the original Terms of Reference. They forget that we were the first to elevate the importance of Conflict probe and time based sequencing. They forget that the expansion of the NRP was our idea, an outcome of the Congressional hearing and is now saving the airlines millions annually. They forget that we wrote many articles for, and/or marketed the Free Flight story to Air Transport World, Aviation Week, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, etc. They forget that, to date, we have published the only full implementation plan that increases safety and addresses all of the ATC equipment problems while providing a Free Flight environment. But it is not credit that we seek, but the credibility to implement change - rapid fundamental change. We continue to be told by all the "experts" that "rapid change is not possible, we are going at it all wrong and that we do not understand".
Well, Free Flight is now an accepted, doable ATC concept because we refused to listen to the "experts". Yet these "experts", from FAA, RTCA, to NASA have never even taken the time to fully discuss our proposals with us. They continue to tell us that we are all wrong and yet, they have no clue as to what we even propose. Yet these same "experts" have wasted over $3 Billion to improve the ATC system with zero success.
Now we move to fundamental revamping of our nation's ATC system. Michael Boyd, Norm Watts and I have developed a complete solution to our antiquated ATC system problem that also provides Free Flight. Our fully developed implementation plan can be accomplished in three years at no cost to the users, while increasing safety and reducing the cost to the taxpayers by a factor of 10. Again, the "experts" tell us that we "do not understand and that our solution oversimplifies the problem". Our critics have taken the time to tell us what we are doing wrong, but have yet to take the time to understand what we propose. Our solution is simple, but I wish someone would explain why is that wrong?
Can we replace the entire ATC system equipment base rapidly and inexpensively and also provide a Free Flight airspace? Of course we can. Private industry has the technology and the capital to develop and deploy such as system in a very short time. It is a hard thing to believe, but easy to prove. Given that, I challenge anyone to prove us wrong. Simply point out the critical flaw that we missed. As unfunded, private citizens, we do not need to continue to beat our collective heads against FAA's brick wall.
FAA & ATC
Compromising Safety with the Wrong Solution to the Wrong Problem
October 8, 1997
Although RMB Associates, like all of aviation, applauds the overall increase in safety
in our aviation system, this does not tell the complete story. Sadly, while the safety of
the aviation system rises in general, the safety of the Air Traffic Control system
continues to spiral downward, yet little is done. The increasing risk apparent in our Air
Traffic Control (ATC) system demands a more rapid solution than the FAA has proposed, or
is even considering, for the foreseeable future.
Analysis by RMB Associates and The Boyd Group, and confirmed by recent GAO documents, has solidified the conclusion that the FAA is no longer technically capable of maintaining the ATC system, let alone upgrading it. Further, even if the FAA had the technical expertise, it does not have the funds to move the ATC system into the 21st century in the way that it proposes. FAA continues to throw expensive technology at the symptoms of our ATC problems, while ignoring the root causes. FAA incorrectly assumes that since the current ATC system is complex, the solution must also be complex. This approach is flat wrong.
The failure rate for the ATC system is well publicized. As a pilot and taxpayer, I find
these failures very troublesome. As an industry, we can not afford the reduction in
overall separation safety through the continued deterioration of our primary separation
system - the ground based ATC system. While most sectors of aviation have increased safety
over the last 20 years, the ATC system risk is rising as the ATC infrastructure continues
to spiral downwards. Equipment continues to break down and becomes farther and farther out
of date. In 1994, Vice President Gore made a big production about the replacement of the
vacuum tubes in our ATC system. Sadly, those vacuum tubes are still in use.
As the number of airplanes flying in our airspace continues to grow, FAA's response has been to simply pile the extra workload onto the controller. But what exactly is the controller's task? Obviously, the primary task is the safe separation of airplanes from each other and from the ground, but the mental nature of this job will surprise most.
The controllers do their job by constantly monitoring at a 19" diameter, two dimensional screen (built in the 1960s) to determine the aircraft's position. Next , they use paper flight strips, which outline the aircraft's flight plan (intent), from which they must mentally project the aircraft's path into the future. Then, they simultaneously repeat these mental gymnastics for all the other aircraft (upwards of 15 to 25 aircraft) in the hundreds of cubic miles of airspace for which they are responsible. Finally, they must compare all these mental flight paths to determine if any aircraft will conflict sometime in the future. They must do this continually, with little or no computer tools, in an airspace that is constantly changing. The job is made more difficult because the controllers have little if any data on the aircraft entering their area until just prior to the boundary. The controllers' main line of defense is their brain. Any little distraction, and disaster may occur. Now imagine if in the middle of all this their screen goes blank. It happens more often that FAA cares to admit.
Unfortunately, the separation system has already broken down more than once with deadly
consequences. The crash of the USAir aircraft in Los Angeles a few years ago was a clear
breakdown of the ATC system. The controller was distracted and the pilot did not see the
commuter aircraft parked on the runway and disaster followed. The recent accident in Guam
is yet another example of the breakdown of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) system and an FAA
that wastes Billions, while answering to no one. Although, like the Los Angeles accident,
the primary blame for these accidents will fall elsewhere, the failure of FAA's hardware,
software and process in the overloaded ATC system are very strong factors that led to the
LA and Guam crashes. While it is easy to blame these accidents on human error, we believe
the fault lies with the FAA that failed to provide the controller with the necessary tools
to handle the increased workload. With the right tools the ATC controller could have
prevented these accidents, but we will never know. And contrary to popular belief, the
"proper tools" are available today off-the-shelf. Unfortunately, that solution
is "too simple" for the FAA.
In the case of the Guam accident, there was a computer glitch that did not identify
that the Korean Airline aircraft was below the minimum safe altitude. Obviously, the ATC
system did not cause this crash, but it should have helped avoid it. Although not
specifically aware of the Guam software problem, problems like this were obvious to anyone
who cared to look. The recent Government Accounting Office (GAO) report AIMD97-30
(February 1997) took a very hard look at FAA's ability to develop and maintain software.
This report paints a very bleak picture of the future. Yet airlines, and aviation as a
whole, rely totally on the ATC system for the safe separation of aircraft and for the FAA
to maintain and upgrade that system. The following tells the story that the trust of the
aviation community has been misplaced. From our perspective the only glue maintaining
airspace safety today is the professional, yeoman's efforts now being made by the
controllers and pilots. Unfortunately for the passengers of the USAir and Korean flights,
this glue broke down. Some quotations from the GAO report include:
FAA has never applied the same rigorous rules to their ATC system software that they apply to the aircraft flying in the system. For aircraft software, FAA's Flight Standards division is tasked to monitor and evaluate all software that is installed into every commercial aircraft as an independent third party. Flight Standards has no vested interest in the approval process, safety is their only concern. There is no such cross check for the ATC system software. Although FAA will say that the ATC software is fully evaluated, this check is done by people that have a vested interest in the approval of the software. Where is the safety net?
User Outrage Missing?
As mentioned above, the failings of the FAA and the ATC system are well documented. But
if this is so why aren't the users, Congress and all taxpayers up in arms. Why hasn't the
press been all over the FAA? The airlines would seem to have the most to lose if this
problem is not corrected, but yet little political capital is expended on fixing the ATC
system. The financial loses the airlines attribute to the antiquated ATC system are in the
billions, while the safety issue represents a significant liability problem to the
airline's bottom line that, to date, has not been considered. The argument could be easily
made that the airlines knew of the problem and did little to correct it. This could be a
potentially devastating liability issue in the event of any ATC related accident.
Over and over again, the FAA has proved that it is no longer technically capable of
maintaining the ATC system. Yet, while airline CEOs invest considerable time and energy
into how the FAA collects money (ticket tax), they ignore how the FAA spends money. FAA
wastes Billions on ill fated attempts to modernize and upgrade the deteriorating ATC
System, with nothing accomplished. As big a structural problem as the 1995 ValueJet crash
highlighted in FAA's Flight Standards division, FAA's ATC side of the house is in much
worse shape. The bottom line is that the FAA, and specifically the ATC management, answers
to no one, and never has - not Congress, not DOT, not GAO and certainly not their
customers. In fact, suppliers, pilots and airlines are afraid of the FAA and refuse to
"rock the boat." FAA's ATC equipment problem can be easily fixed, I am not sure
the management and cultural issues can. I have heard from more than one person that the
FAA is the most arrogant organization in Washington. This is not the atmosphere and
culture upon which we should build our aviation safety net.
FAA's answer to these problems is hardware replacement. While potentially helping the
reliability side of the problem, this does nothing to address the controller workload
issue. FAA's two current programs, DSR (replacement workstations for the enroute
controllers) and STARS (workstations for the controllers separating the aircraft around
the airports) provide few enhancements over the systems they replace. Incredibly, these
systems cost the FAA $1 million per workstation. Future upgrades proposed by the FAA,
based on complex software yet to be developed, will drive this number to around $5 million
per workstation. Compare this to current top of the line engineering workstations costing
a maximum of $250,000 per workstation. But it is not the 20 to 1 cost differential we
worry about, it is the 10 to 15 years the FAA proposes to implement this plan. We simply
can not afford the development risk or time necessary to wait to see if the FAA will fail
As an example of an FAA program destined to fail, the FAA recently proposed wasting
$400 million for the Flight 2000 demonstration. The basics of the Fight 2000 plan is for
the FAA to fund and equip 2,000 aircraft in the Hawaii and Alaska region to prove that
FAA's complex, expensive, avionics based solution to the ATC system problems will work.
Given FAA's track record, Flight 2000 will take a minimum of two years to define the
project, three years to set up contracts and install equipment in 2,000 aircraft, one year
of testing and another to evaluate the results. Best case, this program will prove that
every transport category aircraft will require $1 million worth of avionics to capture the
benefits of Free Flight. And by the time the Flight 2000 program is complete, new
technology will make it obsolete. Why the airlines would even want to prove that they
require all that equipment is beyond us. Worst case and the obvious outcome, the FAA will
waste years and the ATC system will be less safe than today. A minimum of seven years to
test the FAA's vision of the future before anything else can happen, and we still have
another 300,000 odd aircraft to equip in the US alone. Is the FAA planning to pay for
those installations also? Given the FAA's past failures, this approach is doomed from the
The increasing risk apparent in our ATC system dictates that a more rapid solution be
implemented than the Flight 2000 test program will provide. FAA's never ending test
programs have wasted Billions of dollars over the last 20 years with little to no change
to our ATC system. FAA's test cycles are so long that the technology is outdated before
the test is completed, let alone implemented. Aviation can no longer afford the time,
money, nor, more importantly, the negative impact on safety through the continuation of
this approach. Aviation desperately needs to move forward, something the FAA is unable to
do. Safety dictates there must be a simpler, faster solution to the increasing risk
apparent in our ATC system. Luckily, there is.
In 1993, I persuaded United Airlines to do analysis on the costs of the ATC system. The
outcome - $2 Billion per year in lost profit directly attributable to the current ATC
system for United alone. In 1994, American Airline said that their numbers were about the
same. Also in 1994, our study, Free Flight - Reinventing ATC: The Economic Impact,
led to a Congressional hearing, forced Free Flight to center stage, and calculated a
minimum of $5 Billion per year in aviation dollars shredded by our antiquated ATC system.
It was also in our study that anyone first applied the "production line" analogy
to the movement of aircraft. But our numbers, as large as they are, are only the tip of
the economic iceberg. The actual losses accrued across our nation actually are in the tens
of Billions, if not hundreds of Billion of dollars.
The Solution - Simple is Best
Well if safety and economics demand rapid changes to our ATC system, why not just fix
it? What are the constraints from stopping us from going out and rapidly solving the ATC
problem today. One of the biggest roadblocks is defining the problem. FAA continues to
deal with symptoms rather than attacking the core problem. This is a result of assuming
the following, very popular misconceptions are gospel. The following are simply not true.
These problems, which FAA attacks individually, are all symptoms of the same problem,
our current separation process - the ATC system, if you will. These do not represent
physical constraints in any way, but constraints of the ATC process. Eurocontrol, which
manages the European ATC System, has stated that, "It is widely acknowledged that a
prime limiting factor in current airspace capacity is controller workload." GPS, data
link, and more runways do nothing to help the controller.
In 1994, RMB Associates and The Boyd Group introduced a way to fundamentally improve
the Air Traffic Control system. At a Congressional hearing held as a direct result of our
study, Free Flight - Reinventing ATC: The Economic Impact, we introduced the modern
day version of Free Flight to Congress, FAA and RTCA. Shortly thereafter we provided the
FAA with a complete solution to the problems facing aviation that are inherent in the
current ATC system. These problems include degradation of safety, equipment failures,
controller staffing, capacity constraints and annual costs in the 10s of Billions of
dollars to the FAA's customers. Thus far, the FAA's primary focus has been hardware
replacement, with no thought about the separation process built around the 1950's
technology still in use. A quotation for a recent business book outlines the FAA's error.
"The fundamental error that most companies commit when they look at technology is
to view it through the lens of their existing processes." (Reengineering the
Corporation, A Manifesto for Business Revolution, Michael Hammer & James Champy)
But what is Free Flight? Having forced Free Flight to center stage, our concept of Free
Flight is simple - let the pilot or airline choose the path, let the ATC system provide
separation. Unfortunately, Free Flight brings up images of aircraft randomly traveling in
all different directions. While many incorrectly view Free Flight as random
actions by the pilots, the real goal of Free Flight is simply random paths and operational
flexibility. Today's manual ATC system forces aircraft to fly around empty airspace, or
forces them into very narrow predefined corridors to assure the controller can mentally
visualize all the aircraft and their flight paths. The ATC system that forces its safety
inadequacies and design inefficiencies onto the airlines and, subsequently, the flying
public is predicated on 35 year old equipment and manual procedures, not airspace
Additionally, airport capacity today is mistakenly viewed as a runway real estate
problem. Runways are not now, nor have they ever been, the system capacity problem.
The problem, again, lies with the controller's requirement to manually space the random
arriving aircraft on the final approach segment. Simply calculating the maximum arrival
flow based on current separation standards will show a 10% to 30% capacity gain if we
could consistently apply today's wake vortex separation rules. This is nothing more than a
simple logistics problem. Conversely, the FAA is spending hundreds of millions to reduce
separation, while virtually ignoring the easy capacity gains.
Until recently, safe separation of aircraft had only one layer of safety to prevent
conflicts, the mental capabilities of the air traffic controller with zero automation
available to aid the controller. With the introduction of TCAS, an airborne collision
avoidance system, a second layer of safety was added to the system through the
implementation of an independent separation monitor. Unfortunately, TCAS can only
indirectly help the controller since it provides a safety net only after a mistake is
made. What is needed is automation to directly aid the controller in providing their
primary service -- safe separation of aircraft. The implementation plan outlined by
RMB/The Boyd Group in the recent study, Blueprint To Free Flight, highlights how
this can be done. Expensive avionics in the aircraft, including GPS and data link, does
not, and will not get the job done. The ground based ATC automation tools proposed, that
provide a complete solution to our ATC system problems by correctly addressing the
controller workload issue include:
Technology is not the problem and never has been. The nation's air traffic control
system does not push the envelope of software and system technologies. To the contrary,
with each day, we seem to slip farther and farther behind the state of the art. When
aviation compares itself to other industries it becomes very obvious. To be sure, the
banking industry keeps its money "flying free" at security levels above the
requirements of the ATC system. AT&T networks handle amounts of traffic that dwarf the
numbers of messages typically moving around in our system. If there is any doubt as to
database capacity and reconstruction capability, try mislaying an IRS 1099 form for a few
dollars on your income tax sometime. The point is, individually all of the technology that
we need already exists.
Additionally, our solution is not about privatization, a solution du jour bandied about
over the last few years. It is about removing the FAA from the technical side of the ATC
system. By outsourcing the technical side of the ATC system, while leaving the FAA in
control of safety, we bypass the most contentious political issue surrounding
privatization. If the government will consider to using this concept, a simple Screening
Information Request (SIR) announcement will determine whether or not industry is ready to
step up to the plate. Private industry has the technology and the capital to develop such
as system based on the above three tools in a very short time. It is a hard thing to
believe. It is an easy thing to prove. This approach would cost the FAA nothing and has
the potential to tap the resources of private industry.
FAA continues to choose complex over simple, expensive over economic, grandiose over minimal. Aviation can no longer afford this path. GPS and data link are not requirements for, but rather enhancements to Free Flight. Safety alone dictates that we must act faster to solve our ATC problems. DSR, STARS or Flight 2000 will not accomplish this. With the continuing degradation of the current ATC equipment causing a rapid rise in the system risk factor, we must move rapidly to replace all the ground based ATC equipment. Additionally, we must off load the controller while providing a Free Routing system to the FAA's customers. This can be done within three years at a cost to the taxpayers of less than $1 Billion, or at a cost of slightly more than the FAA's Flight 2000 program. This can only be accomplished if the FAA narrows its focus to separation while leaving avionics choices to the users. Although difficult to comprehend, it is simple to prove. Unfortunately, the FAA will not allow this to happen. This should be unacceptable to all of aviation. It is unacceptable to us.
A Path to the Future
Aerospace Engineering and Research Associates Incorporated
The intent of this paper is to propose a business strategy for the rapid replacement of the aging Air Traffic Control (ATC) infrastructure while also providing a safe Free Flight airspace. It will focus on the contractual and procurement issues of Free Flight rather than technical issues. The paper examines the need to replace the National Airspace System (NAS) Host computer system (the 30 year old mainframe computer driving today's ATC system). It will also address why NAS system replacement is perceived as such a hard thing to do. Cost and schedule issues are dealt with in terms of how program developments are funded and risks and incentives are shared. In conclusion, I suggest we consider moving the capital cost and risks of schedule performance out of the public sector and into private industry. This means moving to a service level agreement or Private Funding Initiative (PFI) for the ATC system equipment replacement as opposed to a system development contract. Host Replacement Need
The Host computer system is required to support most all of our existing and planned
ATC programs. Today, it is absolutely critical to the function of air traffic control in
the United States. As important as it is, it is also at the limit of its technology. It is
very costly to maintain and viewed as impossible to rapidly change in any significant way.
In short, the entire US ATC system is totally dependent on a 30 year old computer system.
This system also dictates the direction of our future system improvements. In order to
make any significant changes to our current operational concept, it will be necessary to
replace this system.
It is now becoming widely recognized that to even begin Free Flight, the ATC system will require a ground based, continuous four dimensional conflict probe and a global data environment. This is not easily achievable within the Host architecture. Additionally, in a Free Flight environment, where controllers are depending more and more on automation, it will be far too risky to depend on any single flight data processing engine, which we do today with the HOST system. If this engine should fail, or if it should be unable to meet future demands then reversion to manual process would be extremely difficult. It would be much less risky to continuously operate at least two, Free Flight capable, flight data processing systems built around standard engineering workstations. Why is it hard?
Within the aviation community there is little disagreement to the Host replacement
imperative. We all know that substantial effort and money has been spent in trying to do
just this. If nothing else, the results of these programs have taught us that Host
replacement is not trivial pursuit. Replacement strategies range from the holistic view
taken in AAS to the divide and conquer approach now in vogue with Display System
Replacement. What is it that makes this job so hard?
Technology is not the problem. The nation's air traffic control system does not push
the envelope of software and system technologies. To the contrary, with each day, we seem
to slip farther and farther behind the state of the art. When we compare ourselves to
other industries it becomes very obvious. To be sure, the banking industry keeps its money
"flying free" at security levels above the requirements of the ATC system.
AT&T networks handle amounts of traffic that dwarf the numbers of messages typically
moving around in our system. If there is any doubt as to database capacity and
reconstruction capability, try mislaying an IRS 1099 form for a few dollars on your income
tax sometime. The point is, individually all of the technology that we need already
exists. What we need to do is to integrate these into service requirements.
Industry and government both want to succeed. Most all of the government employees that
I know are stretched to capacity. The limited amount of hands on NAS ATC experience we
have is already spread across too many programs. Government procurement officials are
swimming in a sea of regulation. How can we ask them to do all the same things, and yet do
them faster? Although American industry is well capable of developing world class
products, these same regulatory and cultural constraints exists for the ATC suppliers. The
adversarial relationship which exists in the typical contract procurement creates the
incentive to work to the letter of the contract and nothing more. Suppliers know from the
outset that their product will be judged not on its usability, but rather on whether or
not it precisely fills a detailed requirement. And for trying to move out of the strictly
defined limits of the RFP, it simply does not happen. Factors such as fit for function,
marketability, growth, and competitiveness must, by contract design, take a back seat.
The roles of each of the players need to be examined. In a typical contract
procurement, the government takes responsibility for the technical definition, service
provision and the fitness of the system specified to accomplish these service goals. As
these service provisions are decomposed into more and more detailed technical
specifications and human factors considerations, the complexity of the specification
process grows enormously. The result is that industry then competes on an extremely
detailed specification. The process of evaluating multiple designs against a detailed
specification becomes so very complex that a large number of "system
engineering" contractors are required to help sort them out. With a larger number of
evaluators comes all the overhead inherent in communicating between a large number of
participants. The resulting delays help to insure that the product will be obsolete before
the contract is even awarded.
We are victims of our own success. When I first took a serious look at the NAS Enroute system I was quite simply in awe. After 12 years at NASA, where I had been involved in some very successful and interesting programs, I had never seen anything like NAS. It was an incredible piece of engineering, and quite elegant by the standards of the time. The really amazing thing about this system is the impact it has had on the industry as a whole. We now have generations of controllers who are trained on this system, its procedural basis, its response to stimulus, and even its idiosyncrasies. Air traffic control is pretty much defined and embodied in NAS. But how do we define its replacement? The natural tendency is to build a newer model just like this one. This is sometimes called things like reengineering, cross compiling, or re hosting. It works pretty well, so long as we were content with what the NAS does. Although expensive in the extreme ($4 million per workstation for the enoute system alone), the system could probably be maintained in this way for quite some time. It cannot, however, grow functionally in any meaningful way. The government must then specify new systems as incremental changes around the margins of NAS. Industry spends valuable and limited technological capital to develop systems based on generations old design. The Development Process, taking off the brakes.
If it is not a technology problem and if both industry and government want to succeed,
then what is wrong?
Probably everyone reading this paper has at some time or another bought a personal
computer. Unlike an air traffic control system, which today is very complex, your personal
computer represents more or less the lowest common denominator of technology in the
competitive market place. Even so, much to your dismay, by the time you unpacked the box
it came in, you probably saw an advertisement for a bigger/better/faster personal computer
from the same manufacturer for less than you paid for yours. The point is obvious.
Technology is changing at a breakneck speed. If we are not going to be left in the
starting blocks, we need to change too. The way to do this is not bigger/better/faster
technology, but to realign the development process such that risk/reward and incentive are
used to our advantage. The computer technology must be relegated to a commodity,
effectively eliminating it as a differentiation among bidders. As many industries have
already learned, it is the system functionality that will drive the future. The focus must
be redirected away from the letter of the technical specification towards the base
functional requirement of the ATC system - the safe separation of aircraft.
The government should take responsibility for defining the service the system should
provide, not the hardware or software to provide that service. We need to get the most out
of our NAS experts. The limited amount of NAS expertise that exists should be used to
determine service level requirements of our next generation systems. Lower level
operational concepts, hardware and software implementation details to meet the service
requirements are best managed by private industry on a competitive level.
Private industry should then take the capital risk for the development of a system
which meets these service needs. There was a time, not long ago, when the development
of air traffic control systems was so complex and carried such a liability risk that only
the federal government could take it on. I believe that this situation has changed.
More and more private industry is investing in ATC technology mostly for the international
market place. I believe that industry is now well placed to assume responsibility for
service provision and for maintaining that service at the state of the art over long
periods of time.
Competition should be on safety and cost effectiveness of the service provided. On the safety side, the system must be designed from the beginning to assure 100% separation. After the fact safety metrics simply will not work. Metrics for cost effectiveness, on the other hand, are very straightforward. If the system is up and moving traffic safely and efficiently, then the service provider is paid, if not, then the service provider is penalized. The details of things like cost schedule performance, implementation process, and technology refreshing simply do not enter into the equation. So What Now?
Define the service. What should a safe Free Flight capable Enroute system do? This, for the most part, has been completed through the work of RMB Associates and ASRC's Blueprint To Free Flight, Eurocontrol's CINCAT and EATMS documents and the RTCA committees on Free Flight. All that is needed is to format the existing documents to describe the service requirements. Once the requirements for the service are defined, the procurement competition can begin. Compete the service level agreement.
Invite industry to compete for service level agreements. The essence of such an
agreement is that the government will pay a unit cost for each flight, when the system is
up and running properly. If the system should fail to operate properly, then the provider
would pay a penalty. Issues such as hardware/software upgrades or system improvements
would be managed by the provider.
Select two or more service providers. One could argue, in fact most of us do, that even though both Chevys and Fords are fit for purpose, one is definitely better than the other. We do not go into the depths of their engineering design, we simply observe that one works better than the other. The same will no doubt be true of a ATC system. Keeping more than one provider involved in the system will create an incentive for each to continuously improve their service. Cost
The cost of a service level agreement is distributed over the lifetime of the service. While the capital cost of development and the risk of operation is borne by the service provider, the recurring costs of operations allows the service provider to recover their costs and make a profit if, and only if, the system successfully provides the service.
While most ATC users in the US today argue about Privatization and how to equitably allocate ticket taxes - how FAA collects money, no one pays attention to how FAA spends money. At costs 1600% higher than standard local area network technology, it is time FAA's customers paid attention to the money going out the door. By forcing competition into the ATC system replacement process, costs will drop dramatically. Schedule
The schedule for implementation would of course be a matter for competition. Some
reasonable estimates would be as follows:
Again competition and innovative solutions have the potential to positively impact the schedule. Remember, cost and schedule are tightly bound together. The longer the schedule, the more the cost. Through competition, vendors have a very large incentive to reduce schedules to assure costs do not escalate and force them out of the competition. What is in it for the taxpayers and flying public? (benefits)
Virtually eliminate capital investment in system development - We all recognize
that extensive investment will be necessary to keep up with the rapidly changing air
traffic control and management demands. The required investment may well be greater than
the funding available to the FAA R&D efforts. Using private finance capabilities to
fund these programs will mean that we do not need to scale down our expectations.
Leverage industry investments - Most all of the serious players in the ATC
system development business are now making investments in research. This investment, in
many cases, has been directed towards the international market place where there is no
existing NAS system. A change in procurement strategy could allow FAA to utilize this
industry investment instead of exporting it. This type of investment in the US systems is
not really practical since system procurements generally come with very detailed
specifications in terms of system performance, functionality, and too long and costly a
development process. The January 27, 1997, title an in Aviation Week article on ATC says
it all, "Asia/Pacific Leads Global Modernization Demand."
Improve industry competitiveness - The type of product and capability that would
result from a service level procurement is one that could be very viable in the
international market place.
Improve Air Traffic Control competitiveness - Although we generally do not think
of this as a competition, it obviously should be. The economic benefits of Free Flight and
the related planning improvements make this an extremely important activity. If we arrive
at the point where some control authorities are able to offer this type of routing and
others are not, it may well add fuel to the argument for reducing the numbers of flight
information regions. This is a process which I wish to see the US lead.
Recapture World Leadership - In the 1960s and 1970s the United States was viewed as the world leader in aviation. Countries modeled their ATC systems after the US system. The US was the safest, most efficient ATC provider, bar none. Unfortunately, the situation has changed. The US ATC system is viewed as inferior and no longer the best. The NAS Architecture (Version 2.0) document prescribes more of the same. One clear fact from this NAS document is that FAA has no money and expects the users to fund any appreciable changes to the system. This will not happen without leadership and vision. The service level agreement would free FAA to provide the leadership while capitalizing on the vision of the entire aviation community. Can we have Free Flight now, or soon?
Of course we can. Private industry has the technology and the capital to develop such as system in a very short time. It is a hard thing to believe. It is an easy thing to prove. If the government will commit to using such a service, a simple Screening Information Request (SIR) announcement will determine whether or not industry is ready to step up to the plate.
Federal Aviation Administration
Screening Information Request
800 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20591
SOFTSHARE Order Number: 96XXXX-0XXXPROCURE
XX - ATC ENROUTE AUTOMATION (EDARC/HOST) REPLACEMENT AND PROCUREMENT OF AIR TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT DECISION SUPPORT CAPABILITIES
POC: John Doe, 202/###-####, Contracting Officer, Jane Doe, 202/###-####
In accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration Acquisition Management System
(FAAAMS), Section 220.127.116.11.12, industry is hereby informed that the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) has a requirement valued at over $50,000. The purpose of this
Screening Information Request (SIR) is to perform a market survey and solicit interest
from capable companies who want to participate in this procurement. The primary functional
requirement of this SIR is the replacement of the ATC enroute automation to provide
increased safety, while providing the maximum flexibility to FAA's customers
(increased capacity, Free Routings and/or Free Flight). In this perspective, FAA has a
requirement to replace the ATC Enroute Automation capability (Enhanced Display Access
Radar Channel (EDARC), and the Host Computer System (HCS)) with new surveillance data
processing (SDP), flight data processing (FDP) capabilities. In addition, there is a
requirement to add an Air Traffic Control Decision Support System (ATC DSS) capability.
The SDP receives and processes digital surveillance reports from external sensors via
the surveillance interface subsystem. It fuses long range and terminal radar data, as well
as ADS data when this becomes available. In addition to position data, surveillance
reports from sensors containing identity, airspeed and other aircraft related data are
processed. Enhanced graphic weather data is also processed. The SDP provides an automatic
tracking function (correlation, smoothing and prediction), a conflict alert function and
minimum safe altitude warning function.
The FDP is responsible for the exchange and processing of flight planning information
between and within facilities via various communications interfaces. It ensures that all
facilities along a given route of flight have a consistent view of flight status, progress
and plans for the future. The FDP computes a four-dimensional route of flight and makes
this and other flight planning data available to air traffic management and decision
support systems. The FDP establishes an association between surveillance data tracks and
flight plans for formatting and transmission to the appropriate display.
ATC DSS tools include a ground based conflict detection capability, trial plan
evaluations and conformance monitoring. In addition, this effort will integrate current
and future CTAS builds.
The FAA is considering structuring the procurement in a cost sharing environment, up to
and including having the contractor fully fund all development, verification and
validation, installation, integration, cutover, training and maintenance. In consideration
for this investment, the successful contractors (two) will be reimbursed for services
provided. It is envisioned that reimbursement in this environment would be based upon the
quality of service, e.g. technical performance parameters, quality and timeliness of
This procurement is anticipated to occur in three phases.
Phase I - Qualified vendors will submit written proposal which must address
their operational concept for enroute traffic separation and arrival flow sequencing,
equipment (hardware and software), human factors (CHI), implementation, logistics,
training, maintenance, future upgrades, cost and all other factors pertinent to the rapid
replacement of today's ATC enroute automation. The primary consideration will be the safe
separation of aircraft providing the maximum flexibility to the FAA's customers.
Phase II - FAA will select a set of qualified vendors based upon their response
to Phase I. During the second phase of the procurement, selected contractors (three to
five) will participate in a capabilities demonstration, in an operational environment
(e.g. Air Route Traffic Control Center) of their respective solution. These bidders would
have a competitive "fly off" (March to June 1998) showing how their prototype
would handle separation requirements during all phases of aircraft movement. This
"fly off" would be done with real traffic, but in a "shadow mode",
thus assuring system safety. In addition, in Phase II, the offeror's final cost proposals
will be evaluated.
Phase III - Selection of two vendors to supply operational equipment who would
be chosen to move forward. The primary award contractor would be responsible for the
installation of all primary enroute ATC systems used by the front line controllers. The
secondary award contractor would install independent systems (hardware and software) for
management (TMU) and other non front line consoles, providing redundancy and an
independent system safety monitor.
This SIR is technically open ended and does not outline technical requirements and
limits functional requirements to the safe separation of aircraft. This is done purposely
so as to capture the vendors expertise and apply innovative solutions to what is a very
difficult problem. Although this constitutes an SIR for enroute automation for the radar
environment only, the operational concept must outline the intended application of
aircraft separation from gate to gate, in all airspace, thus assuring a systems solution.
Additionally, low cost implementations, use of off the shelf hardware and software, reuse
of current FAA owned hardware (DSR) and an open architecture upgrade path is encouraged,
but is not meant to limit the solutions provided.
It is requested that all interested offerors submit a outline of their operational
concept, detailed description of what they have commercially available today that meets,
or could be easily modified to meet the specifications contained herein. In addition, the
FAA is interested in obtaining industry comment and/or innovative solutions to the
suggested procurement mechanism. Experience and lessons learned with similar procurements,
domestic or international, are also requested.
Include with your response a matrix tying the specifications outlined herein with your
documentation. Responses should include the following: description of similar efforts;
copies of commercial literature; pictures/specifications; past performance on similar
efforts within the past three years; point of contact listing name, address, phone no.,
FAX no., and Internet address; and capability to deliver the required supplies/services.
Companies interested in responding to this market survey/information request should submit their written response no later than March 15, 1997, to Federal Aviation Administration, Attn.: Jane Doe, Contracting Officer, ASU-###, 800 Independence Ave., SW, Room ###, Washington, DC 20591. All responses must be marked with the SIR number DTFA##-##-R-#####. This is not a request for proposals. No unsolicited proposals are desired and none will be accepted. The FAA does not intend to award a contract on the basis of this solicitation or pay for the information solicited. The FAA is not liable for costs associated with the preparation or submittals of inquiries or responses and shall not reimburse firms for any costs incurred in responding to this market survey/information request. All material provided by interested vendors will be kept confidential as it is understood this may represent proprietary information.