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Bringing a major air traffic control system into operational use – a personal viewDerek BarnesH&W Branch – 12th February 2014
Disclaimer • I’m not an expert in air traffic control • The views expressed here are my personal views and recollections • They must not be taken as the views of any company, organisation or government involved • Nevertheless they represent my understanding of the situation and what happened Note: Some of the terminology and operational concepts have changed in the last 15 years!
Who provides air traffic control in the UK • CAA – Civil Aviation Authority • NATS – National Air Traffic Services • Eurocontrol
An introduction to Air Traffic Control video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1hCY1lHlkU
How I got involved • Spring 1998 - Working in the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency - heading towards privatisation • Just finished 5 years setting up and running the Systems and Software Engineering Centre (SEC) • Was Managing Director Sensors & Processing Sector • Phone call from my Chief Executive along the lines: “We’ve got a software problem for you to look at. Be at Heathrow building X at 7:00 tonight.” • I duly went to what turned out to be the old control tower
Outline of brief • We have got a software problem at Swanwick. Over 3,000 known software bugs and testing is typically finding another 300 each week. When is it likely to be fixed? • London Air Traffic Control is failing & need more capacity. • We have invested £760M in Swanwick – What do we do? • Main options for Swanwick system: • Fix the problems – how and by when • Scrape the current system and replace it • What is the solution (Swanwick, London Air Traffic Control Centre, etc.) and what operational date? • Answers to John Reid (Minister for Transport) please ASAP
UK Air Traffic Control (1998) • London Air Traffic Control Centre - upper level en-route traffic across England and Wales and lower level traffic around London and the south east, including aircraft making approaches to the main London airports. • Swanwick was initially to replace just the en-route function (with other functions to be added later). Start of open systems. • The Prestwick Centre was home to the Scottish Area Control Centre (Scotland & Northern Ireland) and the Oceanic Area Control Centre which provides procedural control for traffic crossing the north Atlantic. • The Prestwick Centre was planned to be upgraded after Swanwick was successfully introduced
Background 1 1987-90 • The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) presents its case to government for a new air traffic control centre and system. The operational date is set in stone as 1996, by which time it is said that the London Air Traffic Control Centre will have reached the end of its life. 1990-91 • An independent study casts major doubt on the feasibility of it becoming operational in 1996. • By the end of 1991 a competitive system definition contract is let to IBM and Thomson CSF. The New En Route Centre (NERC) is needed to "yield a 40% increase in capacity".
Background 2 1992 • A systems implementation contract is let to IBM and a team of subcontractors. Based on IBM's RS/6000, AIX-based architecture, on a Token Ring network, the system comprises about 200 workstations, displaying both aircraft data and radar information. • US company Loral acquires IBM's air traffic division (including the Swanwick contract) • Failures at the London Air Traffic Control Centre start to become common, leading to delays that are widely reported
Background 3 1995 • Problems with the project start to become clear to those involved with the project and those monitoring it 1996 • Lockheed Martin acquires Loral. • By the end of 1996, the December 1997 operational date is put back to March 1998. 1997 – 98 • London Air Traffic Control Centre problems get worse • Swanwick issues and delays became very public
Approach • Make some of my time available
Formation of QinetiQ & DSTL 1997 2001 2000 DSTL DERA Security Security Sensors & Electronics Knowledge & Information Systems Future Systems Technology Through Life Services QinetiQ Sensors & Electronics Knowledge & Information Systems Future Systems Technology Through Life Services
Approach • Make some of my time available • Assembled a core team and have access to others (very multi-disciplinary) • Obvious places to start were: • Swanwick – particularly software team, but also other aspects of the project • London Air Traffic Control Centre • Stakeholders (CAA, NATS, Unions, companies, HMG, etc.)
Software summary • The number of reported ‘problems’ with the software were correct – but several recorded ‘problems’ could relate to the same issue/module • Essentially some prior software was being used in a new context (leading to anomalies) and bespoke software had the usual bugs • Lockheed Martin / Loral had a very good and robust system in place – don’t change it • Given time the software will work!
Swanwick Summary • Bespoke building finished • Hardware all in and working • Other systems in and working • Some human factors concerns about displays • Training on the new system was on the critical path • At the current rate, would not have enough air traffic controllers to run the new system at planned date • No more air traffic controllers available to train • Recruitment and retention of air traffic controllers big issue
LATCC Summary • Handling airport, approach and en-route functions • Running at capacity for current system • Computer support very unreliable and prone to breakdown (last 1960s generation multi-processor mainframe of its type operating in the world) • En-route was approaching melt down
Stakeholders Summary • CAA and NATS naturally very defensive • Air Traffic Control Unions really concerned about their members jobs and future • Airlines and airports worried about capacity • Swanwick contractors – we just need time • Ministry of Transport under pressure • Needed to effectively manage and engage with all the stakeholders
Central Issues • Allow time for the software to be tested and debugged properly • Get sufficient air traffic controllers recruited and then trained to be able to operate the new system • Get better support for the London Air Traffic Control Centre system • Get all the stakeholders on board and agree an overall plan • Map out a date for the new system to become operational
Recommendations Summary Summer 1998 • Keep going and do these additional things: • Recruit X air traffic controllers and get them properly trained (existing and new systems) • New support contract for London Air Traffic Control Centre system • Operational transfer will occur in late January / early February 2002
Outcome 1 • Recommendations accepted and adopted by all • London Air Traffic Control Centre reliability improved considerably – contract support for 4 years • In 1999 Arthur D Little report critically on the finances and management of the Swanwick project • 27 January 2002: The Swanwick safety case is approved by the Civil Aviation Authority and the National En-Route Centre (Swanwick) becomes operational
Outcome 2 • As many European centres are facing major problems with air traffic control systems, the UK is one of the first to have a "new" system in operation • En-route airspace over England and Wales reconfigured to significantly increase capacity • Progressively Swanwick takes on more functions from the former London Air Traffic control Centre • Prestwick subsequently successfully upgraded • Today’s UK Air Traffic Control successfully established • DERA’s credibility enhanced ahead of split and privatisation
BBC Swanwick video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyDXCwe1REQ