Washington Report: Next version of Stars begins at BDL

 - May 19, 2008, 7:50 AM

Raytheon said it achieved initial operating capability (IOC) for a second limited-production version of its new standard terminal automation replacement system (Stars) at the Tracon facility serving Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Windsor Locks, Conn.

The early-display configuration (EDC) began working live traffic on March 26, seven weeks ahead of schedule. Bradley joins Memphis (Tenn.), El Paso (Texas) and Syracuse (N.Y.) International Airports, where controllers are already using EDC.

EDC is the first step in deployment of the full Stars and will provide new, high-resolution color displays and a new emergency backup system that will be used in conjunction with the existing automation system. EDC is currently slated for installation at 13 facilities, and will remain in use until the full Stars replaces the existing automation system.

Stars is a joint procurement for the FAA and the Department of Defense. Raytheon is under contract to develop and install up to 173 Stars for the FAA and 199 for the DOD over the next decade.

“The advantage of initially deploying EDC is that it provides a rapid and easy transition path to the full Stars that recently entered operational test and evaluation,” said Bill Voss, the director of the FAA’s terminal business service. But EDC actually was established as a stop-gap measure to replace the aging controller displays sooner than originally planned because of growing concerns about equipment outages.

With Stars already more than 3.5 years behind schedule, the FAA married new controller displays and maintenance workstations with the existing terminal automation system’s (ARTS) computer processors and software, along with the Stars emergency backup system. EDC does not provide a full replacement of the 30-year-old system currently in use.

In addition to a hardware replacement, full Stars includes the capability for more radar feeds and digital tower displays, and provides the platform to operate a Free Flight Phase 1 controller program called the passive final approach spacing tool (pFast). It was also designed to provide the software and hardware platform necessary to support such future ATC improvements as controller-pilot datalink communications (CPDLC), now undergoing testing in Miami.

According to Bob Eckel, Raytheon v-p of air traffic management systems, “Stars provides a high-reliability, open-architecture design with significant built-in growth capability that allows for easy and rapid incorporation of new data-processing enhancements and new technologies planned for the terminal area.” He said the company expects to complete the EDC installations and roll out the full Stars later this year.

Originally expected to cost $940.2 million and undergo operational readiness demonstration this year, Stars now is expected to cost more than $1.4 billion and not be fully deployed until 2008.