ITT bags FAA's next-gen air traffic control system contract

03 Sep 2007

ITT has won the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) coveted contract worth a possible $1.8 billion to create new technology for the next US air traffic control system. The entire air traffic system is expected to cost at least $15 billion over the next two decades. (See: Raytheon, ITT, Lockheed in fray for next-gen air traffic system contract)

The new system will rely on the satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS), not radar, to guide aircraft. FAA officials say satellite technology is far more timely and accurate than radar. Officials said the network is expected to ease flight delays, improve safety and reduce pollution.

The FAA picked ITT over Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. ITT has won the right to build the first phase, known as the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast system (ADS-B), including ground stations needed to relay air traffic information to controllers and pilots.

ITT representatives said that under the contract, they will maintain more than 700 ground stations nationwide; many in cellphone towers maintained by AT&T, a contract partner.

The system will begin operations in some areas as early as 2010. It will allow airliners to fly closer together on domestic routes, helping cut delays by increasing usable airspace.

"It's literally the foundation, the backbone of the next-generation air transportation system," outgoing FAA administrator Marion Blakey said on 30 August at a press conference. The new system will replace the present radar-based ATC system that was put in place in the '50s and '60s.

The FAA has already operated ADS-B systems in Alaska and Ohio. The $1.8 billion contract lasts for 18 years, from 2007 to 2025. Under FAA's plans, ITT will have the system ready for deployment by 2010 and be able to cover the whole of the US by 2013.

In addition to better air traffic displays, ADS-B can give pilots graphical weather information, terrain maps and flight information. It is nearly 10 times more accurate than radar.

For the first time, pilots and air traffic controllers will see the same real-time displays of air traffic as their controllers in the airport towers, the FAA said. It said pilots will gain better situational awareness because they will have a more accurate picture of where they are and the aircraft in the air around them.

ITT will build the ADS-B ground stations, as well as own and operate the equipment. FAA will pay subscription charges for ADS-B broadcasts transmitted to properly equipped aircraft and air traffic control facilities.

ITT's team includes AT&T, Thales, WSI, Science Applications International Corporation, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Aerospace Engineering, Sunhillo, Comsearch, Mission Critical Solutions, Pragmatics, Washington Consulting Group, Aviation Communication and Surveillance Systems, NCR, L-3 Avionics Systems, and Sandia Aerospace.

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