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Transportation United Kingdom

UK Controllers Say Air Traffic System 'Not Safe' 117

Posted by timothy
from the oh-what's-a-little-safety dept.
Jack Spine writes "Air traffic control technology being implemented in one of the major transport hubs in the UK is 'not safe,' according to air traffic controllers. The electronic flight data system (EFD) being phased in at Glasgow Prestwick Airport is too slow to handle real-time inputs, and could not cope with an outage that isolated it from the main air traffic system. Controllers had to scramble to handle the situation. Good luck if you're traveling to the UK anytime soon."
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UK Controllers Say Air Traffic System 'Not Safe'

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  • by mbone (558574) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @02:43PM (#35371376)

    I can remember when the US Air Traffic Controllers said that our ATC system was unsafe. Reagan fired them. (True, when they struck, but still...)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
      And...uh...OK, how many planes crashed as a result? What, exactly, was the state of computer technology in 1981? Oh wait, the whole thing was a union power play? Let's all remember, Reagan fired the controllers when they voluntarily walked off the job in violation of federal law (they were government employees, imagine US Marines walking off the job by comparison), demanded $10,000 raises (in 1981 dollars), and a French style 32-hour work week. Huh. It's as if the whole "not safe" thing was a cassus be
      • by drsquare (530038) on Friday March 04, 2011 @02:15AM (#35377074)

        Imagine the world if public sector unions had instead won this battle and felt free to impose their selfish wants on the rest of us. Scary, eh?

        Yeah, America might have full employment, a better work-life balance, and higher incomes.

        But I'm sure you're much better off after thirty years of Reaganomics...

      • by definate (876684)

        imagine US Marines walking off the job by comparison

        I would fucking love that. Have the military on voluntary contracts, where they can't be forced to stay, and I think you'd find this fucking war would be over by now. Hell, it might not have even gotten off the ground. Imagine that, billions in resources, countless lives, damaged relationships, all saved, by allowing the people in the military freedom.

        • !War. War was never declared by congress.

          You are currently involved in an invasion.
        • imagine US Marines walking off the job by comparison

          I would fucking love that. Have the military on voluntary contracts, where they can't be forced to stay, and I think you'd find this fucking war would be over by now. Hell, it might not have even gotten off the ground. Imagine that, billions in resources, countless lives, damaged relationships, all saved, by allowing the people in the military freedom.

          lol you're funny

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        So what you are saying is that their jobs were getting harder and more stressful (more air traffic) but because they were replaceable they should just accept deteriorating conditions and their own worthlessness?

        That sounds like a good way to make everyone unhappy. Fuck fairness, appreciation for the work you do and a reasonable work/life balance. Let's all just get paid slightly less than the cost of replacing us.

        I am really, really glad I don't live in the US. Things are far from perfect in the EU but at l

  • Made the mistake. (Score:5, Informative)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @02:43PM (#35371378) Journal
    I made the stupid mistake of actually reading the fine article. It seems to suggest that the old system of using paper strips and flight names is faster, more reliable and has bigger capacity to handle real time input than the new one based on computers and "smart stripes". Should have waited for people to read and post comments, that way some kind soul would have posted something easier to understand.
    • "java" (Score:2, Informative)

      by rubycodez (864176)
      the new system runs Linux, but the article also says "java". no surprise that a j2ee system would turn out be a bloated, slow steaming pile of dung. Sure, efficient coding can be done in Java, but far too often too many layers of canned commercial libraries from a certain j2ee framework vendor are employed
      • Re:"java" (Score:4, Informative)

        by trollertron3000 (1940942) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @03:01PM (#35371566)

        This can be true but a language doesn't design a bad system, a software engineer does. Many reliable systems have been built using Java and reside in hospitals, transportation, and power infrastructure. I can't blame a language or runtime for piss poor design. Also keep in mind not all Java applications or runtimes are the same.

        Searching for more on this issue I found a post on how ATC insiders view it on the PPrune forums (UK site for professional pilots): http://www.pprune.org/atc-issues/427001-efd-scottish.html [pprune.org]

        Kind of an interesting behind the scenes look.

        • by JamesP (688957)

          Yeah, but the issue is: the main reason for choosing Java is because the architect/developers are incompetent in anything else

          Of course you can have a high-performance system in Java, IBM Watson was mainly in Java EXCEPT for the critical parts, because of speed (and they used Prolog as well).

          Probably for ATC speed is not a problem IF you use the correct algorithms, which they probably didn't.

          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            Actually you are wrong.
            The Java haters are so funny. I have worked in Pascal, Fortran, Modula-2, c, c++, objective c, JAVA, BASIC, COBOL, PHP, Perl, and Python.
            And for a desktop app that deals with a database I like Java the best. The problems you see with Java tend to be caused by the fact it is so easy to get a program to work even if you use terrible design. BTW yes I know about javascript and HTML5 but those are really new and frankly do not have the control and performance that Java gives a programme

            • by JamesP (688957)

              Actually you are wrong.
              The Java haters are so funny. I have worked in Pascal, Fortran, Modula-2, c, c++, objective c, JAVA, BASIC, COBOL, PHP, Perl, and Python.

              SO? You may have worked, but 99% of java programmers haven't.

              And for a desktop app that deals with a database I like Java the best.

              Fair enough.

              The problems you see with Java tend to be caused by the fact it is so easy to get a program to work even if you use terrible design. BTW yes I know about javascript and HTML5 but those are really new and frankly do not have the control and performance that Java gives a programmer IMHO.

              Yes, you probably can get the control you want if you dig through a mess of an API, as opposed to clean an to-the-point actions of other languages/standard libraries (and yes, not even C# is that contrived).

              I can see one reason for using this that you probably missed., portability. The US ATC system was so tightly designed that we where stuck with using old slow computers for years. The old system just couldn't be run on modern hardware.
              Java should prevent that issue. As long as you can make a JVM work you are good. You could in theory use c++ and QT or Mono but I would consider those higher risk decisions than Java.

              Yes, portability is important. And even though Java is supposed to facilitate this, It still can be painful even on a desktop situation!

              Interestingly enough, I've come to know of (critical) systems running very old codebases (on Pas

              • by LWATCDR (28044)

                Cross platform on java is not great but it is better than anything else out there. And there are a vast number of APIs in java but I do not find them any worse, arcane, and or complex than say Windows. Actually I like the idea that to do a lot of tasks in Java all that is needed is research and learning.
                Here are some of the things I feel are big positives for Java.
                1. A really good online community.
                2. Two really good free development systems. NetBeans and Eclipse.org.
                3. Good support for Windows, OS/X, Linu

            • I first used Java at introduction, and gave it up as a bad idea. Others are more forgiving, so now I have three projects with vendor supplied sucware(TM) written in Java. I hope someday to see one of them achieve 75% of promised capacity, and 25% of the specified MTBF. I am sure there is one good Java programmer out there, but he is nowhere near any of our projects. Give me TCL/Tk over Java any day of the week.
              • by LWATCDR (28044)

                Are you sure that it is Java.
                Java has become a boogie man for those that don't know better.
                For example I wrote a phone call management system it ran without any problems for about five years and then it started to have speed issues. Idiots that thought they knew better said it was because it was in java. The problem was that they had gone from 15 users to almost 50 years and they where still using the same Pentium 2 600 256mb server to run the Postgres server as they had at 15 people. We upped the server to

          • by Anonymous Coward

            I don't actually imagine it has anything (maybe a small part) to do with algorithms, and mostly to do with interface. How can you organize, sort, and view strips of paper? Any way you effing want. How about rows in a table... well, any way it pleased/was convenient for the coders to do.

            The affordances of physical pieces in this system cannot be understated, and the familiarity with an existing system that works is a non-trivial point in this whole case.

            Technology *can* make tasks easier, but it doesn't do s

            • by JamesP (688957)

              thanks for the very insightful comment

              And most importantly, strips of paper may be a good idea on the physical world.

              The developers may have tried to mimic the strips and it is not that simple on the computer screen, or did something not quite similar but a lot worse (for example more difficult to read)

              Transporting analogies and usage models is very complicated

            • Electronic strips have been used across the industry for about fifteen years. They save a lot of manual labour because people had to write on them, and they save mistakes because hand writing can be misread. A convenient compromise is to use printed strips in the tower and electronic strips in the en-route and approach centres. The printed strips are easy to read and make great bookmarks ;)

        • Many reliable systems have been built using Java and reside in hospitals, transportation, and power infrastructure.

          A house of cards will stand forever, and may look very nice and stylish... until the first puff of wind comes along..

          • by Nadaka (224565)

            I don't get what you are saying here. Java is overall a very good language that is safe, reliable and fast. But it is not ideally fit for realtime systems. Most of the systems you mention would do well with Java. I would rather take an occasional pause for gc than a dangling pointer in unsafe memory or a vb nightmare.

        • I can't blame a language or runtime for piss poor design

          You can blame the choice of a language ill suited to the task.

          Java may not be the best choice for a real time environment, for one thing there's the garbage collection [oracle.com] to consider. A language that stops from time to time to perform some internal task isn't what I would choose for a time-critical system where human lives may be in danger.

          • Now this I can tend to agree with but there are real time Java systems. I went looking for more information on the runtime and OS used for this EFD system but couldn't find any. Real time is not optional in this situation, IMHO. And when I see symptoms like "not fast enough", I tend to agree with you. They might have used a technology ill suited to the real time nature of ATC and that was the big mistake.

            I just think it's too easy to go to that well, the Java is slow well. Those days are past in most cases.

            • by LWATCDR (28044)

              They are talking HUMAN realtime not microsecond jitter realtime.
              You know like a text editor realtime.

          • You can blame the choice of a language ill suited to the task. Java may not be the best choice for a real time environment, for one thing there's the garbage collection to consider. A language that stops from time to time to perform some internal task isn't what I would choose for a time-critical system where human lives may be in danger.

            Personally I would be pissed if they did any heap allocations at all during steady state. Using a language which virtually denies one the right to breath without requiring a heap allocation is inexcusable.

          • by jrumney (197329)
            Incremental garbage collection has been around since at least Java 1.4. The runtime does not need to stop from time to time to perform internal tasks anymore if you know how to configure the JVM.
        • Java is the language taught to all these part-time it / project manager types of people. Its the only thing they know. This is why java has become a synonym for "Oh,OH, danger! Amateurs at work."

          ATC Systems are highly political, i therefore doubt that the choice of language was up to the programmer. The project was probably cash-strapped, over budget, late etc. Now people are trying to force it down users throats.

          In the forum you see a lot of discontent users, that reads to me like a classic project fail al

          • Yeah agreed. I saw the same thing play out from the sidelines of SAIC with their FBI case file system debacle. You have to meet the users needs and too many of these large projects just go thundering down the path like a crazy elephant. Then they get to the end and ask if everything is good. Good? You just trampled what we do here!

            In fairness to them I've been in meetings with government officials and seen displays of terrible ignorance and petty bickering over politics and power. Not once when I was buildi

        • That link to pprune.org was truly educational. You tend to have this idealized image of "professional" fields like police, doctors, lawyers... air traffic controllers. Reading this forum thread showed how things operate not one bit differently than anywhere else. Workers blaming management for pushing through a project without being fully informed. "Old-timers" lamenting the fall of the old system and its need for personal experience and its replacement with a more automated system that requires new users t

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            That is how business works. If someone is good at something you promote them to doing something else. Repeat until they find something they are not good at and stop getting promotions.

            This also helps ensure that management are separated from how things work day-to-day and workers are ignored because if their opinions were worth listening to they would have been promoted already.

            Really we should give people more money not to move up the ranks, then take some away when they move to a cushier management job an

        • ...view it on the PPrune forums ...

          Ahh, England.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        Java can be incredibly fast and efficient if done properly. But it is not by any means a real time system without a seriously redesigned garbage collection system among other things.

        The article does not mention j2ee though.

      • the new system runs Linux, but the article also says "java". no surprise that a j2ee system would turn out be a bloated, slow steaming pile of dung. Sure, efficient coding can be done in Java, but far too often too many layers of canned commercial libraries from a certain j2ee framework vendor are employed

        Java...whaaa? WTF is a garbage collected language doing anywhere near ATC?

        • the new system runs Linux, but the article also says "java". no surprise that a j2ee system would turn out be a bloated, slow steaming pile of dung. Sure, efficient coding can be done in Java, but far too often too many layers of canned commercial libraries from a certain j2ee framework vendor are employed

          Java...whaaa? WTF is a garbage collected language doing anywhere near ATC?

          Why not? Buffer overflows are the killer (oh the stories I could tell...) and java doesn't have them the way C does.

      • by tsotha (720379)

        There's nothing wrong with java for this kind of system. I run a system written in java that handles tens of thousands of events per second in real time. Works like a charm. Real time systems are a bit harder to design, and failure modes have to be thought through more carefully, but that's independent of your choice of language. You have to think about whether or not you can tolerate GC pauses, but we get pauses typically on the order of 100ms, which is probably just fine for an application like the o

        • The main problem with Java is that management try to get away with arrays of inexpensive programmers who try to use methodologies from different industries. One killer problem I have seen with OO in environments where there is a lot of data being transferred is over-reliance on instantiating objects for transient data. Like read, transform, write and dispose of objects where you could just keep N objects for every step and copy the contents between them. Its not as elegant but it reduces the amount of thras

    • by natehoy (1608657)

      The phasing-in began on 28 January, but has suffered problems, including latency and screens not working, according to forum posts.

      It may (or may not) take a controller longer to write a flight number down on a strip of paper and use that as their handoff device. But, once captured, handing off a flight is as simple as handing the strip to the controller you just transferred the flight to.. The strips on your board tell you which flights are yours to manage at the moment.

      The computer should be able to do it faster and more efficiently and show you a nice list of flights on a screen, but if the computer starts slowing down or your scr

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Writing it down also means that you are forced to process the information.

    • by autocracy (192714)

      That is the case primarily because the system seems to have lagging displays and other indications of really shitty design.

    • This seems like a good place to deploy Siftables [youtube.com]. Each block gets assigned a plane, and the controller can manipulate them manually, like the current block and strip system. Each block can be updated dynamically to indicate fuel status, etc. When one controller hands off to another, they can physically hand over the block, ensuring awareness of who has responsibility.
  • This is an issue in a lot of places. Huffingtonpost did a story last year [huffingtonpost.com] about the systems in the U.S. and how old they are.

    You would think this is one of those places where the technology would be constantly updated, but not so.

    • by natehoy (1608657)

      But this isn't "old technology fails". This is a problem with the reliability of a NEW system they are trying to implement, and they had to fall back on the old system (handing around little strips of paper with flight numbers on them) in order to keep the operation running.

      Technology is not constantly updated in ATC because controllers and pilots value reliability over new sexiness. So they tend to like to stick with what's worked well for years or decades rather than updating to the latest shiny every c

      • Totally agree. But when a tower is using a computer system from the 60's? (not that this is the case with this particular story, but there are some out there like this) Reliable or not, I would like to think they are updating at least every 10 years to implement better safety features and what-not.
        • by GooberToo (74388)

          Reliable or not, I would like to think they are updating at least every 10 years to implement better safety features and what-not.

          I kid you not, about the only thing that changes in aviation is cost and an increase in the number of stupid regulations. The regulations are typically what drive ever increasing costs. The real problem is the FAA requires some serious overhauling.

          Did you know you can by a clock from your local $1 store which is more reliable and accurate than the clock MANDATED in many aircraft because of regulations? Seriously. Did you know that a $400 FAA certificated clock is likely on par with what you could otherwise

          • by GooberToo (74388)

            Why is a factually accurate post a troll post? Factually, the moderation is 1100% troll moderation.

            Holy shit moderators on /. and fucking idiots these days. They can't even do a simple job.

        • Totally agree. But when a tower is using a computer system from the 60's?.

          Thats unlikely to be the case anywhere. Most of Africa for example, uses systems built in the last ten years, with fully electronic operation. No paper strips.

    • You would think this is one of those places where the technology would be constantly updated, but not so.

      What? Given the mission-critical nature of the technology (and hence scrupulous validation) and the relatively slow changing requirements, I would think the technology would almost never change except for a brief period of time during implementation where they iron out the kinks.

      Unless the old system is actually failing (and given the superlative safety delivered by the aviation industry in the past few decades, I doubt it) there is everything to lose and little to gain from getting on the upgrade treadmill

      • From the article, it appears that the new system allows them to run the same airspace with fewer employees, cutting operational costs.

        So for the owners, there is much go gain from implementing the new system, assuming it works as well as the old one. Even with a few contractors, it's probably cheaper.

    • by slinches (1540051)

      There's a reason ATCs use very outdated tech ... It Works. These systems have already been certified by the appropriate regulatory agencies and there is a lot of experience built up using them over the years. There is plenty of room for improvement (using GPS for example), but extensive testing and oversight is needed to ensure that any new system that is put in place will actually improve cost or efficiency without adversely impacting safety.

    • You would think this is one of those places where the technology would be constantly updated, but not so.

      Maybe you want the software which prevents your plane colliding with any of three dozen others written in php on a LAMP stack with automatic updates to your latest iDink app, but I don't.

      Give me a 40 year old system written in COBOL any day of the week. At least there's a chance that was written by a Real Programmer(in TECO naturally).

    • You would think this is one of those places where the technology would be constantly updated, but not so.

      For mission critical systems the word, "update," translates to, "potential for new, unexpected bugs to crop up." If a system exists wherein which all of the bugs, problems, and gotchas have been documented, worked around, and patched then changing it is simply a means of opening the system up to new failure modes. You don't update mission critical systems unless there is a verifiable, valuable thing to be gained from the update. Otherwise you are just increasing risk and getting nothing in return.

  • by davolfman (1245316) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @02:48PM (#35371426)
    Am I the only who seems to notice that the old system apparently ran off ticker tape somehow? WTF! How do you even make that work? If these people have been working on such a system that long no wonder they have trouble training them to a new system, it must all be reflex by now like driving a stick shift.
    • I dunno, most cars in England have a manual gearbox and are the preferred way to drive over here...
      • I dunno, most cars in England have a manual gearbox and are the preferred way to drive over here...

        If petrol (Brit for gasoline) costs as much here as it does there, more people would use the stick shift (Am for gear lever) and manual transmission (Am for gearbox).

        • by beelsebob (529313)

          stick shift (Am for gear lever)

          No – automatics have gear levers too, they just don't get moved as often.

          manual transmission (Am for gearbox).

          No – automatics have gearboxes too, they just aren't manually controlled.

          The brit phrase you're looking for is simply "a manual" (or "an automatic").

          • by Gordonjcp (186804)

            I find I move the gearlever in my automatic car about as often as I move it in the manual one. If I didn't, I'd likely crash at the first corner as I tried to go round it in top.

            • by beelsebob (529313)

              Pardon? Automatic cars don't require you to take them out of top, you stick them in drive and they chose the gear. Perhaps you're thinking of a semi-automatic (a car with a manual gear leaver, but no (driver controlled) clutch).

              • by Gordonjcp (186804)

                They kind of *do* require you to take them out of top, because they can't magically sense things like corners coming up. Or, do you prefer wobbling unsteadily round corners with your foot on the brake?

                • You must have a special type of automatic box. The technical term for it is "broken".

                  • by Gordonjcp (186804)

                    So you're saying that your car's automatic gearbox can sense when you're coming up to a corner, and change down for you? How does it do that?

                    • by beelsebob (529313)

                      When the rotation speed of the engine drops below a certain rate, it automatically changes down a gear. It can't predict when it's going to happen and engine break, which makes them less efficient than manuals, but the norm for driving an automatic is to simply put it in drive, and get on with it – drive is normally the only forward gear.

                    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

                      Right, but that's not the same thing. It's dangerous to go into a corner under braking - particularly in rear wheel drive cars - but that's what you'd have to do if you didn't make the gearbox change down.

                      TL;DR - if you just put the car in drive and let the auto box have its own way you will always be in the wrong gear on bends, and have a lurching wobbly uncomfortable drive - and not to mention dangerous.

                    • by beelsebob (529313)

                      Right, but that's not the same thing. It's dangerous to go into a corner under braking - particularly in rear wheel drive cars - but that's what you'd have to do if you didn't make the gearbox change down.

                      Why? As with manual cars, you break for the corner, then turn in...

                      TL;DR - if you just put the car in drive and let the auto box have its own way you will always be in the wrong gear on bends, and have a lurching wobbly uncomfortable drive - and not to mention dangerous.

                      Agreed, and that's why we in britain drive manuals... Doesn't stop it being what automatics do.

                    • by krenaud (1058876)
                      Modern double-clutch systems like VW's DSG-boxes have better fuel economy than manual gearboxes due to very fast gear change and intelligent software.
                    • by drsmithy (35869)

                      TL;DR - if you just put the car in drive and let the auto box have its own way you will always be in the wrong gear on bends, and have a lurching wobbly uncomfortable drive - and not to mention dangerous.

                      Strangely, many of us seem quite capable of delivering a smooth, safe drive in our automatics, even around corners.

                      If braking into a corner is "dangerous" for you, then you're driving inappropriately for the conditions. The road is not your personal racetrack.

                    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

                      Have a look on Youtube for video of some of the roads around Scotland. Over here we drive at the 60mph speed limit on roads that would have a 30mph or even 25mph limit in the US - maybe this is why?

                    • by drsmithy (35869)

                      Have a look on Youtube for video of some of the roads around Scotland.

                      I don't need to, I've driven around in Scotland myself.

                      Over here we drive at the 60mph speed limit on roads that would have a 30mph or even 25mph limit in the US - maybe this is why?

                      Yes, that is why. You're driving too fast for the conditions, like I said earlier.

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          Automatics are often as or more economical than manuals these days.

          • If driven the same way then yes, manuals however have all sorts of things that can be done by the driver to reduce fuel consumption.

            Skipping 4th gear while on a flat or slightly downward slope comes to mind.

    • They're not talking about "ticker tape" or punchcards. I'm no expert on ATC technology, but I recall reading an article about a fiasco in which the US FAA hired IBM (IIRC) to try to create a digital ATC system, the effort failed, and they killed the entire project after spending $1B. Apparently, the old analog method involved having a physical piece of paper for each flight that was placed on a physical representation of the flight path, and somehow the paper helped them avoid collisions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by natehoy (1608657)

      Not ticker tape. A Flight Progress strip http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_progress_strip [wikipedia.org]

      "Old-school" controlling uses strips of paper. When a flight comes under your control, you grab a strip of paper and write the flight number on it. You stick it up on a board in front of you. When a flight gets near leaving your zone of control, you tell them to contact the next controller, and you physically hand the strip of paper to that controller or have a flunky run it down for you. Then when the pilot cal

      • Thanks for posting. Ticker tape indeed!

        Obviously there are issues and limitations with the strips but they work well, have a high capacity, and provide excellent informational view of flights. They don't crash, slow down or freeze. And the flight strip does not disappear en route to another controller. And they work in all sorts of complex situations. It may be hard for some folk to comprehend that a manual paper system sets a high bar for a replacement digital system.

        I am surprised at the comment f

      • They don't write the fliight number on a piece of paper. When a flight is due to enter a controllers sector, a strip will be printed and given to the controller. This strip will have all the details for the flight including callsign/route/destination etc... When a controller gives instructions to that flight, he writes on the piece of paper so he can keep track of what instructions have been given to it.
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_progress_strip [wikipedia.org] I used to supply equipment to ATC environments, and it's comforting to know that even though they have millions of $$$'s to play with, the system integrators still understand the need for redundant systems. Every place I worked in used flightstrips alongside their computerised systems and I'm suprised that there are not using them here.
    • by digitig (1056110)
      It's not ticker-tape. The flight details printed onto lightweight card strips that slot into custom-made holders which slot into a custom-made frame in the controller's desk. The controllers can move them around, annotate them, and hand them to the next controller when required. They've been replaced with electronic flight strips in much of Europe. As the article says, there are a lot of backups to cover the situation in the event of failures. The most likely effect of a failure is flow restrictions, which
    • The paper strips being referred to are basically strips of thin card, about 25 by 200 mm. They are pre-printed with lines which deliminate fields. Each strip represents a Flight (or Aircraft, or Track). Fields on the strip include:

      1. Aircraft ID
      2. Registration
      3. Airport of departure
      4. Destination
      5. Route (a list of waypoints)
      6. Levels for each waypoint
      7. SSR code (transponder setting, it will come up on the radar)
      8. Cleared flight level
      9. Arrival time

      ...lots of other fields are possible. These days that data will be primarily stored

  • Some US naval tactical systems also reverted from digital because it was too slow.
  • In other news, UK locksmiths say safe not an air traffic control system.

  • As you're likely to be sexually assaulted by a TSA agent.
    Or be exposed to child porn naked body scanners.

  • Can anyone comment on what exactly this system is doing? From reading TFA and googlin' around it seems like it needs to aggregate all(?) incoming/outgoing aircraft data into a readable strip that humans can then do something with? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    • You're wrong. Currently when a flight enters an Air Traffic Controllers sector, a piece of paper is printed out with details of that flight on it, these are called 'Flight Progress Strips'. Controllers use these strips to keep track of where a flight is supposed to be going and what instructions have been given to it. Basically EFD aims to replace these paper strips with an electronic version.
    • The system they are describing takes all the data for the air traffic control system and aggregates into a meaningful system. Inputs to the system are sensor data (eg radar), flight data (aircraft ABC is intended to take off from X and land at Y between these times), and input from air traffic controllers who use an HMI (Human Machine Interface) of some kind). As a former HMI developer I know that the HMI gets the blame for all faults seen on the HMI, which is hardly fair.

      Outputs are instructions from the c

  • by eepok (545733) on Thursday March 03, 2011 @05:15PM (#35373300) Homepage

    The air traffic control system is neither "safe" nor "not safe". It's impossible to be completely safe and the current system is definitely better than a worse system.

    What they should say is, "... is not safe enough for X." where X can equal "the amount of money we put into it", "modern standards", or "the pilots and passengers".

  • the people who built it failed to do their jobs correctly. if there's one thing i can't stand, it's when technology is done wrong by people who don't know what they're doing, then foistered upon others by a heavy hand of management. if the system doesn't make the controllers happy, it's wrong. they're not whiney users... the system sucks.

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

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