Contract Airline Services

"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

New Air Traffic Control System

En Route Automation Modernization

Did you know there is Officially a 
New High Altitude ATC Control System?

Before the Senate Commerce Committee on FAA Reauthorization, Michael Huerta, Administrator  thanked Chairman Thune, Ranking Member Nelson and the Committee for inviting him to speak on the reauthorization of the FAA.

Statement of Michael Huerta, Administrator:

"It seems like not long ago, we were united with a shared sense of urgency to provide the necessary framework and structure to support our nation’s aviation system, as part of the FAA reauthorization of 2012. And now we are here again to continue that work. Government and industry have a shared responsibility to create the aviation system that will carry this nation well into the 21st century.

The FAA has made major progress in transforming our airspace system through NextGen, and that progress continues as we speak.

I am very proud to announce that we achieved a major milestone last month by completing one of the largest automation changeovers in the history of the FAA. We have completed our new high altitude air traffic control system – known as ERAM. This system will accommodate the technologies of NextGen, giving the United States a more powerful air traffic system.

ERAM, or En Route Automation Modernization – is not just a faster computer system, it’s a network that replaces our legacy system, which had its roots in the 1960s. ERAM processes data from nearly three times the number of sensors as the legacy system. It can track and display more high altitude flights and enable controllers to handle additional traffic more efficiently.

This upgrade is complete now because we introduced a great deal of discipline and structure to the way we do business at the FAA. In 2012, we created a Program Management Organization to better manage the deployment of this and other technology. We also worked closely with our employees – those who will use the system – to gain insight and to make alterations ahead of time for a smooth transition.

The fact that we turned ERAM around, and that it is now operating nationwide, is a testament to what the FAA can accomplish as an agency when it sets milestones and pulls together as a team to make fundamental changes.

ERAM links seamlessly with another complementary system that makes up the foundation of NextGen. This system is called Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast, or ADS-B.

Last year we finished the coast-to-coast installation of the ADS-B network that will enable satellite-based air traffic control. ADS-B provides a more precise and efficient alternative to radar and will create a sea change in how we manage our nation’s air traffic.

With this highly flexible NextGen foundation in place, the FAA has fulfilled an important commitment. We are working with the industry and the general aviation community to help them meet their requirement to equip by 2020.

On a parallel track, through our collaboration with industry, we have identified key priorities in implementing NextGen air traffic procedures. We now have more satellite-based procedures in our skies than radar-based procedures. We created new NextGen routes above our busiest metropolitan areas, saving millions of dollars in fuel burn, shortening flight paths, decreasing carbon emissions and cutting down on delays.

We have accomplished all of this despite a very challenging fiscal backdrop. Prior to 2012, the FAA faced 23 short-term extensions for reauthorization, as well as a lapse in spending authority and a partial furlough. Two years ago, like other federal agencies, we slashed our budget under the sequester and furloughed employees. Later that year, we continued to operate our nation’s air traffic control system and regulate industry safety despite a complete shutdown of the federal government.

What the FAA needs in reauthorization is stability and predictable funding. We also need the flexibility to identify priorities and match our services and infrastructure with the needs of our users.

It bears emphasizing that the FAA is a 24-seven operation, singularly focused on safety. I think everyone has acknowledged that the funding piece has been challenging in the last five years. There is talk about restructuring the FAA as part of this reauthorization. I am all for having that discussion, but the discussion needs to be based on facts. We need to be sure that any governance changes would work to solve the challenges faced by the FAA.

Our aviation system is a valuable asset for the American public that contributes 12 million jobs and $1.5 trillion to our economy. We should use the upcoming reauthorization to provide the FAA with the tools necessary to meet the demands of the future. A lot is at stake, and we need to get this right."

Statement of Karlene Petitt: 

We have a responsibility to assure that our pilots have the tools and skills necessary to meet the future demands of  automated aircraft

I'm currently working on a redesign of training that will provide "more" training in a different machines to assist pilots to understand the complexities of their automated aircraft and gain proficiencies, with savings to the airlines, making a win win for all. But without this redesign, NextGen will be here... and the question remains...  

"Will pilots be ready to enter that world?"

The Challenges with Automation
Through True Fiction 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene


  1. Anytime the Feds start bragging about how good they are; I get concerned. Not doubting but not confident either. Just last night flying in the most advanced ATC system in the world, our speed was changed four times (slow down/ speed up/slow down/slow down more) on a planned known arrival with a constant speed descent of 290 knots. The FMS was totally out to lunch the entire descent and we were using old school techniques of VVI and distance to go for the next crossing restriction. But it was worse for others as they were vectored on and off the STAR. The only good part was that it was severe clear and we could see all the roads and cities on the ground so we knew where we were. Nothing like flying IFR (I Follow Roads).

    Then we were descended to 3000 feet almost 30 miles from the airport at 210 knots. I never like doing this but we took the visual 20 miles out so ATC would leave us alone and stop micromanaging our flight. After we did, we were given two more speed changes. They can talk about efficiency, but from a fuel planning and pilot perspective. It was a disaster. Fortunately the weather was clear and the winds were calm. The boxes seemed to like the landing.

    1. Mark, most flights I'm on they micro manage us. Once in 5 years was I able to manage my own speed on profile and that was coming into Seattle at noon. And thus the reason they have figured trillions of savings for NextGen. Part of that is the savings when we are spacing ourselves and not being managed by ATC.

      I'm still waiting to see how that will be safer. It will definitely help over the ocean allowing us to climb quicker...etc. I can see efficiencies...but time will tell on the outcome. One thing I know, there will be a huge learning curve along the way.

      Yes... I kind of laughed at the back-patting myself.
      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Yet another great post Karlene, and thank you.
    Public testimony before Congressional Committees, especially by funds-seeking agency heads, should always be taken with a grain or salt, of course. That said, many in the AV industry still tend to regard FAA as hide-bound pencil operators interested only in keeping themselves busy and making the lives of others more difficult. NOTHING could be further from the truth. Despite a few few stuck souls, the overwhelming majority of FAA officers and staff are enabling and facilitating our common, singular objective: SAFETY. They are Good Souls, often crippled by cumbersome systems, yet they never lose sight of of their primary purpose. Buried well beyond the Public Desk, FAA employs world-class engineers, pilots and others, all united with a primary focus on SAFETY. At their core, they are good people and I refuse to engage in the far too common 'FAA Bashing.'
    Their recent improvements in ATC systems, particularly those focused on high altitude traffic are impressive. IMO, the sooner that operators, dispatchers and - of course - pilots embrace the improvements, the safer everyone will be. Thank you again for the reminder and the excellent post. The popular impression that FAA's inspectors and examiners as well as engineers and even medical examiners are 'thugs,' is simply wrong. If our mission remains focused on SAFETY, then we're still singing the same tune. -Craig, of Cedarglen

    1. Thank you for the comment Craig. You are so right... there are good people doing positive things everywhere, especially the FAA, and often within the constraints of tied hands. Which sometimes it makes the task impossible.

      NextGen is going to be interesting putting it into place, with many challenges from communication to operations. And... the reason we need to change how we train pilots. It is time to make room in the working memory for thinking, to make sure we don't have pilot error in the process.

      But unfortunately, whenever there is change...we open ourselves to errors. The goal... focus, and try to stop them before they become catastrophic. Thanks so much for your comment!

    2. Humans have errors. Still, I think the vast majority of all stakeholders share common goals. Those of us on the fringes rely on you and your colleagues to keep us informed. You are doing a wonderful job and your work IS appreciated. Thanks again. -Craig.....


Thank you for your comment! If your comment doesn't appear immediately, it will after I land. Enjoy the journey!