Dec. 10, 1999
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA
(Phone: 650/604-3937, 650/604-9000)
NASA OPENS NEW VIRTUAL AIRPORT CONTROL TOWER AT AMES
NASA "FutureFlight Central," the world's first full-scale virtual airport-control tower, will open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, Dec. 13, at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA.
Constructed at a cost of $10 million, the two-story NASA FutureFlight Central facility was jointly funded by NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The facility is designed to test -- under realistic airport conditions and configurations -- ways to solve potential air and ground traffic problems at commercial airports.
"NASA FutureFlight Central is a world-class research facility dedicated to addressing the future needs of the nation's airports," said Ames Center Director Henry McDonald. "This facility will allow NASA, the FAA and their research partners to examine ways to increase the flow of aircraft through the national airspace system safely, efficiently and under all weather conditions."
Among the invited guests to the ribbon-cutting ceremony are NASA Associate Administrator for Aero-Space Technology Spence Armstrong, FAA Administrator Jane F. Garvey, state and local legislators, and a host of top officials from government, industry and academia.
NASA FutureFlight Central will permit integration of tomorrow's technologies in a risk-free simulation of any airport, airfield, and tower-cab environment. The facility provides an opportunity for airlines and airports to mitigate passenger delays by fine-tuning airport hub operations, gate management, ramp-movement procedures, and various other airport improvements. Finally, it enables air traffic controllers to provide input and become familiar with new airport operations and technologies before construction is completed.
Real people interact in the live-action simulation just as in a real airport. Up to 12 air traffic controllers in the tower cab are in direct communication through a simulated radio and phone system with pilots and ramp controllers at stations on the first floor.
"We can simulate any airport in the world," said Nancy Dorighi, NASA FutureFlight Central facility manager. "The three-dimensional visual model of an airport is viewed out the 360-degree windows of the tower cab. The visual scene, along with specific airport traffic patterns, fleet mix and procedures, makes this a very credible operational test-bed."
It is anticipated that airport and airline management and researchers will want to look primarily at the feasibility, safety and reliability and cost benefits of technologies prior to incorporating them into airports. In addition, testing will provide information that may assist in developing proposed changes to airport ground procedures and the construction of new airport facilities. "This is a totally new approach to tower- or airport-traffic planning that wasn't possible just a few years ago," said Dorighi.
Twelve rear-projection video screens provide a seamless 360-degree high-resolution view of the airport or other scenes being depicted. The imaging system, powered by supercomputers, provides a realistic view of weather conditions, environmental and seasonal effects and the movement of up to 200 active aircraft and ground vehicles.
The facility is dedicated to the memory of Stanton R. Harke, the facility's first project manager, who passed away on April 25, 1999, at 58 from cancer.
Images of the facility are available via the Internet at the following URL:
The general URL for FutureFlight Central is:
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