US ancient air traffic control gets upgraded

Bolling_DC_30s_nw_biplanesThe US Federal Aviation Administration has finally completed the replacement of its 40-year old main computer systems that control air traffic.

The new system, En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) is expected to increase air traffic flow, improve automated navigation and strengthen aircraft conflict detection services.

This will make US airspace a little safer and mean less flight congestion.

It has taken ages to replace the old system. The first of 20 installations of the ERAM system went online at Salt Lake City Center in March 2012 and the final installation was completed last month at New York Centre.

Lockheed Martin developed ERAM systems and proudly said that it uses two million lines of computer code to process critical data for controllers, including aircraft identity, altitude, speed, and flight path. To put this figure in some perspective, Windows 7 uses 40 million lines of code to run your PC but this system almost doubles the number of flights that can be tracked and displayed to controllers.

ERAM system is the underpinning of other key air traffic control systems being developed under the overarching NextGen technology upgrade plan the FAA has been slowly rolling out over the past few years.

“ERAM gives us a big boost in technological horsepower over the system it replaces,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in a statement. “This computer system enables each controller to handle more aircraft over a larger area, resulting in increased safety, capacity, and efficiency.”

However all is not tickidy boo with the ERAM deployment. The programme has been slated because of security concerns.

The Government Accountability Office recently said that as the FAA moves toward NextGen, they system faces cybersecurity challenges in at least three areas: protecting air-traffic control information systems, protecting aircraft avionics used to operate and guide aircraft, and clarifying cybersecurity roles and responsibilities among multiple FAA offices.