A solution to the nation's air traffic jams and a method to drastically reduce the possibility of mid-air collisions through use of the fastest computer system ever developed was unveiled here today.
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Background: A solution to the nation's air traffic jams and a method to drastically reduce the possibility of mid-air collisions through use of the fastest computer system ever developed was unveiled here today.
The new Staran IV system developed by Goodyear Aerospace Corporation can perform more than 40-million mathematical operations per second in predicting which planes are on collision course and determining evasive manoeuvers.
Its speed and vast capability also would allow a reduction in aircraft separation distances in airport landing and takeoff patterns -- one of the main causes os air traffic tie ups and long waiting and circling periods for airline passengers.
Goodyear Aerospace estimated that four times as many planes could be safely accommodated in the same amount of air space by using Staran IV in the air traffic control system. Controllers presently must rely largely on manual and visual methods to direct plane movements and prevent collisions.
With the system, the company said, parallel runways could be used more effectively, also resulting in more planes taking off and landing in a shorter time without compromising safety.
One feature of the system is its ability to single out planes on collision courses and show them to air traffic controllers on a viewing screen as if they were the only planes in the air.
At the heart of the computer are parallel array modules that provide its mathematical capacity of up to 40-million operations per second.
They figure in the processor's ability to perform its arithmetic and search operations on many parallel data streams simultaneously, instead of one after the other as inn conventional computers.
Use of the Staran IV has been proposed to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by Goodyear Aerospace and the proposal is now under consideration.
The firm said that as far as it knows, it has the only working processor that could fill air traffic control needs.
New "super" computers of conventional design could be used, it was pointed out, but they would cost $15 - to $19-million per terminal, compared to $1.5 million per terminal for Staran IV.
In a hypothetical situation demonstrated by Goodyear Aerospace today, Staran IV tracked and predicted potential conflicts between 128 aircraft, moving at an average speed of more than 300 miles and hour in a 4,000-square-mile area.
Using simultaneous arithmetic, it took the position, altitude, heading, and velocity of each of the 128 aircraft (from beacon and radar), projected its flight path 30 seconds ahead, and compared its projected positioned with those of the other 127 aircraft.
Then, using its simultaneous search the Staran IV isolated from the traffic maze those aircraft within 30 seconds of a potential collision and displayed them on the screen -- isolated from the clutter of other planes.
The 30 seconds is the minimum time the FAA has established as needed for pilots to be warned and to take evasive action. The processor could project much further ahead.
Today, air traffic controllers have no such machine to isolate the planes on potential collision course. They have to determine the possibilities themselves, making value judgments along the way.
The problems of hundreds of airplanes flying holding patterns in the skies, and stacked up on the ground, during peak rush hours is annoying and costly. The problem os avoiding collisions is critical.
Thirty-six midair collisions and 2,230 "near misses" were reported to the FAA in 1968. The agency estimates that four hazardous near-misses occurred for each one reported.
Meanwhile, passenger traffic is expected to grow at an average rate of 12 per cent annually starting in 1972, the FAA has reported.
Already, delays of up to one hour are prevalent at several of the nation's airports. This is costing the airlines $120-million a year, and this could increase to $1-billion a year by 1980.
The National Air Traffic Control Advisory committee, a group appointed by the Department of Transportation to study the nation's growing air crisis, has predicted that unless something is done to upgrade current air traffic control facilities, collisions will increase to 128 by 1980, and to a staggering 833 by 1995.
The Advisory Committee said that airline travel is now as safe as travel on buses and trains, and considerably safer than travel by passenger automobiles and taxis. Even so, 1,725 persons lost their lives in U.S. aviation accidents in 1968.
The committee said that without corrective action and system improvement, this might increase to a rate of 5,350 deaths a year by 1980 and to 16,400 deaths a year by 1995.
"We have to plan ahead for the enormous increase in air traffic," President Nixon told assembled members of Congress May 21 when he signed the 10-year, multi-billion-dollar Airport and Airway Development Act, "and that's what you've done." The act is designed to expand and modernize airports and air navigation and control systems.
John H. Shaffer, administrator of the FAA, has said act "affords us the means to keep pace with civil aviation developments on a par with the rate of air transportation growth.
"We have the charter to meet the challenge," Shaffer said. "We have the technical tools...on hand, on order, or within reach."
Goodyear Aerospace said to gain maximum benefit from the act, Staran IV should become part of the program.