Aircraft flying over the Arctic Ocean can take more direct routes, save fuel and maintain schedules with activation of the FAA’s final Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures (ATOP) system at the Alaska Air Route Traffic Control Center.
ATOP has already been deployed at the agency’s New York center and Oakland, Calif., center, providing air traffic service over the Atlantic and Pacific regions.
The technology enables controllers to safely separate aircraft in areas outside radar coverage or direct radio communication. It detects conflicts between aircraft and provides satellite datalink communication and position information to air traffic controllers.
ATOP significantly reduces the intensive manual process that has limited the controllers’ flexibility to safely handle airline requests for more efficient tracks over long oceanic routes. It also reduces the workload on controllers through the use of electronic flight strips instead of the labor-intensive paper strip method previously used to track transoceanic aircraft.
More direct communication and reduced controller workload will eventually enable reduced horizontal separation between aircraft, to 30 nm from the current 100 nm. With greater transoceanic capacity, more aircraft will be able to fly preferred routes.