[Avionics Today 09-09-2014] One of the most crucial aspects of the FAA's NextGen modernization project, En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM), is on track for nationwide operation by the spring of 2015, according to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. ERAM is a replacement of Host, the legacy computer system the agency uses at its Air Traffic Control (ATC) centers that manage high altitude traffic.
ATC suite view with ERAM Evaluation System in closest Display at the FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center. Photo: FAA
ERAM processes flight and surveillance data, provides communications and generates display data for air traffic controllers. The Lockheed Martin-developed system is designed to support satellite-based systems such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and Data Communications (DataComm), which are also being implemented as part of NextGen. ERAM will operate at all 20 ATC centers, known as en-route centers, which manage high altitude air traffic.
"To date, 16 en-route facilities have fully deployed ERAM, the computer system that is the backbone of our NextGen airspace system. It processes flight radar data, and generates display data to controllers. By next spring, all 20 en route centers will be using ERAM continuously," Huerta said, during a speech at 2014 National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) convention in Providence, R.I.
According to the "NextGen Now" publication released by the National Air Traffic Controller's Association, the most recent ERAM milestone occurred at the Atlanta Center, which achieved Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in July. NATCA describes ERAM as the "platform required for evolution to NextGen."
Huerta's latest remarks indicate significant improvement with ERAM deployment from an August 2013 report by the Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General (OIG), which cautioned that some key capabilities of the system such as ERAM's tracking software, were "experiencing issues that may impact future Next Generation Air Transportation System capabilities."
"The work at the centers and terminal locations leads to a greater capacity for controllers in terms of handling aircraft in their sectors more effectively and efficiently," said Huerta.
The FAA chief also gave the NASAO convention an update on NextGen satellite-based procedures, stating that the National Airspace System (NAS) now has "more satellite-based procedures than traditional radar-based procedures."
"When you hear 'modernization,' think NextGen," said Huerta. "NextGen is happening now. We are completing the final pieces of the key foundation of NextGen."