Technology Addresses ATC Staffing Crisis?

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System Puts ATC In The Cockpit...

Most of us have heard about the potential for a staffing crisis in the air traffic control system as Reagan-era controllers reach retirement age, but could technology supply part of the solution? A few days after controllers mount their annual legislative conference and "Hill visits" in Washington, D.C., NASA's Langley Research Center will unveil a technology-based system that might (one day) put some air traffic control decisions in the cockpit. The Distributed Air/Ground Traffic Management system allows pilots to "plan their own routes and safely and seamlessly fit into the traffic flow," according to a NASA press release. Researchers and pilots will use simulators to show the system to reporters at a news conference May 20 but a live test of the system is planned for June. In the May 20 simulation, airline pilots and researchers will "fly" simulated aircraft into a mock-up of Dallas-Fort Worth airspace. Controllers in California will be able to watch their progress but the pilots will use the "autonomous flight management system" to fit themselves into the flow. In the real simulation in June, the researchers will gather extensive data on how well the system works ... or doesn't.