FAA Deploys Stars at First of 11 Large Tracons

 - July 1, 2013, 10:40 AM
A Raytheon Stars display integrates radar and flight-plan information for terminal-area controllers. (Photo: Raytheon)

Prime contractor Raytheon and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration have finished installing the standard terminal automation replacement system (Stars) at the first of 11 large terminal radar approach control (Tracon) facilities in the U.S. Air traffic controllers at the Dallas/Fort Worth Tracon started “continuous operation” with Stars ahead of schedule in early May, Raytheon announced at the Paris Air Show last month.

Raytheon describes Stars as a command-and-control system that integrates aircraft surveillance and flight-plan data and presents the information to Tracon controllers on high-resolution, 20- by 20-inch color displays. The FAA considers it a building block of the NextGen ATC modernization effort, comparable to Lockheed Martin’s en-route automation modernization (Eram) system now being installed at en-route ATC facilities that manage high-altitude air traffic. Delays and escalating costs plagued both the Stars and Eram programs in their early days.

Raytheon is installing Stars under the FAA’s long-running terminal automation modernization and replacement (TAMR) contract. A joint procurement contract called for the FAA and the Department of Defense to deploy the system progressively at 331 total civilian and military ATC facilities. More than 150 facilities now use it, according to Raytheon. Under the TAMR Phase 1 effort completed in 2007, the company replaced automated radar processing and display systems at 47 Tracons and their associated ATC towers. TAMR Phase 2 modernized or replaced automation systems at nine FAA sites through 2009.

In April 2011, Raytheon announced a $177 million contract modification from the FAA to deploy Stars at the 11 largest Tracons, replacing their Carts (common automated radar terminal systems) as part of TAMR Phase 3. The contract covers the Northern California, Southern California, Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, New York, Potomac (Washington, D.C. area), St. Louis, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago and Louisville Tracons–considered the most capable facilities in the U.S. national airspace system.

The Dallas/Fort Worth Tracon, responsible for managing approaches and departures at airports including Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport and Dallas Love Field, achieved the FAA’s continuous operations milestone first. The Northern California Tracon, responsible for Oakland, San Francisco and other airports, would become the next large facility to transition to Stars if it meets its schedule to begin operations later this year.

Conducting TAMR Phase 3 in two segments, the FAA plans to introduce Stars at 100 more Carts sites once it equips the largest Tracons.