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July 16, 1996

Don Nolan-Proxmire

Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
(Phone: 202/358-1983)

Keith Henry

Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA
(Phone: 757/864-6120)

RELEASE NO. 96-071


NASA, the FAA and industry partners have provided the technology for a revolutionary new system to be used during the Olympics to move air traffic efficiently and safely in uncontrolled airspace over predetermined "highways in the sky."

When athletes take to the field in Atlanta for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, specially equipped helicopters will transport high-value commercial goods and provide essential public safety services. Approximately two million people are expected to visit the Atlanta region during the Olympics, July 19-Aug. 4.

The Atlanta Olympics offer a rare opportunity to demonstrate advanced communications/navigation/surveillance (CNS) flight systems for future air traffic management. Specially equipped helicopters and supporting ground stations will enable dozens of Atlanta-based companies to overcome the expected transportation burden and generate an estimated $20 million in revenues. For medical, disaster and law enforcement agencies, critical emergency services will be significantly enhanced.

The $2 million CNS technology development effort was co-funded by NASA, the FAA and eight general aviation companies, all members of the Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments (AGATE) consortium. AGATE was formed in 1994 to revitalize U.S. general aviation through advanced technology development and deployment. General aviation includes everything from personal helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to business, public and commuter aircraft.

The AGATE consortium is participating in the Olympic project through its flight systems team led by the Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. Industry team members are ARNAV Systems Inc., Puyallup, Wash.; Harris Corp., Melbourne, Fla.; PanAm Systems, Minneapolis, Minn.; AvroTec Inc., Portland, Ore.; Digital Equipment Corp., Greenbelt, Md.; ARINC, Annapolis, Md.; Terra Corporation, Albuquerque, N.M., and NavRadio, Golden, Colo.

By providing key technologies, AGATE is contributing to a massive FAA-led effort to manage air traffic in the Atlanta region during the Olympics and lay the groundwork for future air traffic management and regional disaster emergency response concepts. The overall FAA initiative for the Atlanta Olympics is called Operation Heli-Star. Other primary partners working with the FAA on the initiative, called the Atlanta Short-haul Transportation System, are Georgia Tech Research Institute, Helicopter Association International, Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Atlanta Vertical Flight Association, an association of Atlanta businesses and municipalities.

Up to 50 helicopters equipped with AGATE-designed avionics will participate in the joint Atlanta operation. The Heli-Star program is designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of helicopters equipped with this system for improved safety, security and economics in urban operations. It is expected that more than 1,400 hours of flight-time during the Olympic games will yield data on operational use and human factors.

"It is amazing what the AGATE Olympic team has accomplished in a short period of time," said Bruce Holmes, manager of the general aviation office at Langley and director of the AGATE consortium. "The FAA estimates,"Holmes said, "that this effort would have required more than three years using traditional government contracting procedures. This is a dramatic testimonial to the efficiency of the consortium approach to doing business with and within the federal government and a prime example of 'reinventing' government."

The AGATE-developed flight system is the first to demonstrate the combined use of digital data link communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite navigation technologies working together to provide the pilot with accurate, easy-to-interpret graphical information about the relative positions of other aircraft and ground-based GPS systems. Aircraft positions also will be linked to radar-like ground consoles where air traffic managers and security personnel will be able to monitor their location and send data linked messages to air crews.

The specially equipped aircraft will also be capable of self-dispatch operations in a "free-flight" mode during the Olympic games. The Atlanta project provides AGATE with the first large-scale demonstration of free-flight capabilities. After Atlanta, AGATE plans further development of free-flight capabilities for general aviation use nationwide.

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404-305-5100 Kathleen Bergen, FAA

404-894-6986 John Toon, Georgia Tech Research Institute

713-376-5892 Tom Marlowe, Helicopter Association International (HAI)

404-635-7022 Ken Davis, Georgia Emergency Management Association (GEMA)


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