NASA’s FutureFlight Central (FFC) facility offers a 360-degree “fully immersive” virtual airport environment in which planners, managers, controllers, pilots, and airlines can work together in real-time to optimize expansion plans, operating procedures, and evaluate new technologies under realistic conditions. FFC is dedicated to solving present and emerging capacity problems of the nation’s busiest airports and has the capability to support cost-benefit studies of planned airport expansions. The environment at FFC provides a stable platform from which new requirements can be derived, offering pilots and controllers an opportunity to evaluate changes at any airport.
The sophisticated capabilities of FFC allow it to be used as a visualization tool, going beyond airport and air traffic control simulations. For example, FFC possesses a Mars database and could be used as a simulated control center for directing future Mars-based robotic missions. FFC can also be used as an “eye in the sky,” depicting, for instance, spacecraft operations in the vicinity of the International Space Station. For simulations where it is advantageous to visualize scenarios using a three-dimensional, 360-degree format, FFC is the tool of choice.