EXCITING NEWS – Selma, AL gets a Remote Tower Air Traffic Control Center—but really how soon?

From this to that?
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[The former USAF control tower from what was Craig Air Force Base remains, but as of 2007 it was unmanned.]

Remote ATC tower may increase safety at Selma, AL’s airport

Technology Used and Approved in Europe coming to America

For years, similar systems are being tested in Virginia and Colorado

An economical and safe answer to Contract Towers

The below articles trumpet the installation of a Remote Tower ATC Center  (RTC) in terms suggesting an exciting ATC development. YES it will be IF and when the FAA approves this system being built at Selma, AL’s Craig Field, it will be significant then. At that time, Selma Economic Development Authority, Advanced ATC Inc. and Indra Corp. will earn great plaudits. Until then….

The innovation is actually old news and a story filled with disappointing governmental actions.

First, the issue whether these highly automated systems should be introduced in America starts back as far as 2015, or more.  The precipitant was installation by Swedish Civil Aviation Administration (LFV) and Saab of an RTC at Örnsköldsvik Airport. It and other RTCs in Europe and Australia (maybe more?) have demonstrated that the remote control can work. Among other things, the controllers have access to better visuals of the aircraft.

Loveland and LeesburgSecond, two American RTCs, Leesburg, VA (2015)and Loveland, CO (circa 2018; current update),  have been working in test mode but not yet approved. The FAA has gone as far as to declare the Virginia operation viable (9/2021) These timelines reflect the US aviation safety organization’s aversion to risk, but do not speak well for expedited innovation.

Third and most disappointingly from a broader public policy standpoint, use of RTCs to maintain safety at airports with air traffic levels insufficient to justify a staffed Air Traffic Control Tower. Here is a Stephen Van Beek’s very cogent statement of the issue which merits debate and determination BEFORE the first RTC is approved—Steve Van Beek Reason

Contract towers have been a source of major Congressional battles. Fiscal hawks assert that the federal support is unneeded while the safety and community perspectives argue that these facilities provide aviation access to the US and international commerce,

Fourth and hopefully signs of FAA movement on RTCs, the agency issued Technical Requirements 3.0 (Jan. 2022) and Allocation Report 1.3 (Sept. 2021). The 2022 paper set the technical requirements ONLY for single-runway airports in Class D airspace and the earlier statement “to provide a rationale and validation of the final continuity and integrity technical requirements presented in the Remote Tower (RT) Systems Minimum Functional and Performance Requirements for Non-Federal Application.” Earlier pronouncements include RTS Concept of Operations (PDF) (CONOPS) – Version 1.0 (April 7, 2020) and NAS Requirements Document (NAS-RD-2013) – EXCERPT (PDF). The FAA inclination to approve this innovation is demonstrated by the graphic at the head of the webpage (the today panel in the below image, which looks like 1920’s tower)-

1920s tower and FAA 2022 RTC page graphic


 

Craig Field To Get U.S.’s First Remote Tower ATC Center

By

Kate O’Connor

landing at SEM

The Selma Economic Development Authority has announced plans to set up a Remote Tower Air Traffic Control Center at Craig Field (SEM) in Selma, Alabama. The project will be led by Valdosta, Georgia-based air traffic control academy[1] Advanced ATC Inc. and conducted in partnership with Spain’s Indra Corp., which will provide staffing, software and logistics support[2]. The center is expected to be the first of its kind in operation in the U.S. and is designed to allow air traffic controllers to “perform all the functions of a traditional control tower from a different location through the extensive use of cameras, real-time video and other advances.”

Indra and ATC, inc

“Remote towers represent an important and innovative step in airspace modernization efforts in the U.S., and I’m excited to see Advanced ATC establish its pioneering operation at Craig Field,” said Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce Greg Canfield. “This virtual tower center represents another example of how our state is at the leading edge of trends shaping the future of aviation and aerospace for the U.S.”

Advanced ATC plans to invest $4.7 million in the Remote Tower Air Traffic Control Center along with hiring 28 people for Craig Field operations in the first year. In addition, Advanced ATC intends to establish an international training academy at SEM to “provide operational training and certifications for the remote tower air traffic controllers.” A timeline for the project was not announced.

 artificial intelligence remote tower

 

[the articles do not describe a remote artificial intelligence center like the above]


1st remote air traffic control center in US to be in Alabama

Dan CunninghamWhile the technology is gaining a foothold in Europe, it is relatively new to the United States, Dan Cunningham, chief operating officer for Advanced ATC,[3] told The Associated Press.

“Remote tower systems are brand new in the United States,” Cunningham said. He said the tower will be part of their training academy at the site — where they anticipate training students from around the globe — but will need approval from the Federal Aviation Administration before handling air traffic in the United States.

The Federal Aviation Administration has not approved any remote tower systems for use. But Cunningham said remote towers at two airports are currently going through the evaluation process, and “our process will be the same.”

Advanced ATC officials said the remote tower will be equipped to support aviation expansion and provide air traffic control services for up to 40 airports in the U.S.

When asked for a timeline of when to expect the new additions to be operational, Craig Field Executive Director Jim Corrigan said the academy would accept its first class in September and the remote air traffic control tower will be certified in December.


Advanced Controller Working Position

When compared to current air traffic management systems, the new controller working position offers greater integration and flexibility in the display of information as itIndra Work Station does not rely on multiple monitors, as well as a more intuitive and evolutionary system for interaction thanks to its touch panels. The controller position has been designed to optimize human factors on the job, both at an ergonomic level –adapting to any physical build– and when it comes to usability –completely adjusting to every user’s tastes and preferences.

A new concept of controller working Position that merges our global experience in Air Traffic Management with leading-edge technologies in visual display and gestural interaction, integrated within a modern design engineered from SESAR requirements on human factors. Ergonomics have been considered with the utmost care by introducing automatic regulation for every user, being able to quickly adapt screen height, work area incline and footrest to any controller build. Also, most windows in the interface can be personalized in their position and size.

Ergonomics, technology, flexibility and integration, in a Reddot award winner design.

All equipment is located where controllers find it more suitable. A curved area between the interaction area and the main screen which is highly configurable exists that is designed to integrate a number of accessories, such as loudspeakers, ergonomic controls, identification, lighting, usb ports, etcetera.

Ultimate radio resources, normally located in badly accessible areas, have got a place that allows for their use in case of necessity, but also for their concealment during daily use, thus gaining workroom. All equipment is configurable and can be upgraded from traditional 2048×2048, 28’’, mouse-and-keyboard positions

Indra Keyboard

 

[1] Advanced ATC, Inc. is a privately held company established in 2008. AATC’s founding partners are retired Federal Aviation Administration  ATC managers.

Advanced ATC Consulting Services provides expertise in but not limited to: ATC Service Provider, Training Program Design, Accident Investigation, Airspace Management, Airport Design, Airport Capacity Management and Ramp Tower Management.

 

[2] Indra is one of the leading global technology and consulting companies and the technological partner for core business operations of its customers world-wide. The main challenge of companies that provide air navigation services for global air traffic management is to guarantee that aircraft flights are safe, efficient and profitable, and have a limited environmental impact, in a difficult context with constantly increasing air traffic. These challenges can only be met through cutting-edge technologies that satisfy our clients and that improve the service for both clients and end users. The advanced automated air traffic control system offers one of the most state-of-the-art systems that meets the standards and practices recommended by the International Civil Air Organization (ICAO) and Eurocontrol. The aim is to improve flight safety by providing controllers with reliable information on air traffic, flight plans and ground-to-air and air-to-ground data link messages. Offering a completely integrated and seamless solution that goes from Tower (ground) Control all the way to Approach and Area Control Operations for the industry means providing better service to users by modernizing air traffic management.

 

[3] Chief Operating Officer, Advanced ATC, Inc. 2008 – Present; Operations Manager Charlotte ATCT (CLT),2003 – 2008 ; Operations Manager Salt Lake City ATCT,1999 – 2003,ATC Facility Management Specialist,1997 – 1999; Air Traffic Manager,1994 – 1997 ; Air Traffic Manager,1989 – 1994 ; Operations Supervisor ,1987 – 1989; Quality Assurance Specialist.1984 – 1987 ; Air Traffic Control Specialist, 1982 – 1984 ;Air Traffic Controller; United States Air Force



 

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