Aug. 26, 1997
Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
NASA Langley Research Center
NASA Ames Research Center
FAA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
RELEASE NO. 97-105
NASA TESTS CONCEPTS FOR LOW-VISIBILITY AIRPORT OPERATIONS
NASA is demonstrating technology on the runways and taxiways of
Hartsfield-Atlanta International Airport that promises to keep
traffic moving safely and efficiently day or night regardless of
The technology is actually many technologies integrated into one
super system. On the ground is a Federal Aviation
Administration-developed system of ground surveillance sensors and
other equipment. Onboard NASA's Boeing 757 research aircraft are
the airborne systems and displays.
The research program calls for a total of 53 flight tests and
demonstrations at Hartsfield-Atlanta to be completed by the end of
August. Demonstrations will be to about 100 airline and industry
executives and officials of the FAA and other government
"The idea is to demonstrate the feasibility of safely performing
low-visibility operations at capacities that currently are
performed in clear weather," said Steve Young, flight test
co-principal investigator from NASA Langley Research Center,
Hampton, VA. "We've all experienced what happens to the air traffic
system when weather slows traffic at an airport. And the trend is
toward more traffic delays. This work has the potential to slow
that trend as well as improve safety."
The research is part of NASA's seven-year Terminal Area
Productivity (TAP) program begunin 1994, led by NASA Ames Research
Center, Moffett Field, CA. TAP is part of the agency's aviation
system capacity program, expected to substantially increase
aviation system throughput in all weather conditions.
For the Atlanta effort, dubbed the Low Visibility Landing and
(LVLASO) program, the cockpit display system is an
integration of two subsystems. The Roll-Out Turn-Off (ROTO)
guidance subsystem was developed at Langley and aids the pilot
during the roll-out and turn-off portion of the landing (after
touchdown, rolling down the runway and exiting the runway onto the
taxiway). The Taxiway Navigation & Situation Awareness (T-NASA)
display subsystem was developed by Ames and is being used in the
Atlanta deployment as a pilot aid during taxi.
As the research aircraft approaches the runway,
computer-generated graphics outline the correct runway and its
precise location on a glass visor mounted between the pilot and the
cockpit windshield. Upon contact with the ground, the pilot's
aircraft position and that of other aircraft is shown on an
electronic moving map of the airport on the instrument panel. With
GPS satellite positioning and an airport layout database the
displays are updated in real time. During roll-out and turn-off
from the runway, the head up display provides the pilot with
guidance so that runway occupancy time is minimized.
The glass visor, or head-up display, shows the edges of the
runway and taxiway with a series of computer-generated "cones" in a
virtual reality manner. During taxi, a turn is indicated by virtual
cones and signs showing the angle and direction of the turn. As the
pilot taxis, the virtual cones and signs move and change as if they
were actual objects on the taxiway. The pilot's cleared route looks
like a virtual highway on the ground.
"Earlier studies with the Ames display system have shown that
making it available to the pilot virtually eliminates the kind of
navigation errors that crop up in low visibility conditions, when
the pilot has trouble seeing surface signage and other salient
landmarks," said Ames T-NASA co-principal investigator Robert
Ground-based components consist of a surveillance system that
provides traffic positions to the 757 via a computer datalink and a
controller interface that allows air traffic controllers to
transmit instructions to the aircraft by computer in parallel with
normal voice communications. The controller is also automatically
informed via this computer link if the 757 deviates from its
A combined ground and airborne system can reduce the growing
number of ground accidents and close calls by increasing the
situational awareness of both pilots and controllers. Additionally,
the digital datalink greatly eliminates the possibility of
miscommunication between controller and pilot.
Other flight demonstration team members are Rockwell
International, Cedar Rapids, IA; Cardion, Inc., Woodbury, NY; St.
Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN; Volpe National
Transportation Systems Center, Cambridge, MA; Jeppesen Sanderson,
Englewood, CO; Trios Associates, Inc., Greenbelt, MD; Project
Management Enterprises, Inc., Bethesda, MD; Rannoch Corp.,
Alexandria, VA; and QuesTech, Inc., Falls Church, VA.
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