Air Traffic Management Historical Data Archive and Replay System
The Time Based Flow Management (TBFM) system is a complex, expensive, safety-critical computer system that runs in air traffic control facilities in the United States. It is used to help air traffic controllers manage the flow of aircraft within about 100 miles of an airport as planes descend from their cruising altitudes into the busy terminal airspace near an airport. TBFM is an essential tool for managing traffic in the National Airspace with a primary function to maintain safety buffers between aircraft and secondary goals to efficiently use limited airspace capacity and enable flights to fly optimal trajectories into destination airports from a business and environmental standpoint.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) supports enhancements to TBFM mainly in its planning algorithms, but these enhancements come at a cost and with a timeframe typical of a large, secure, complex computer system, compounded by a thorough acquisition process. The FAA TBFM Operations Team needed a quick, cheap way to replay TBFM data to use in evaluating prior operations and training new staff based on feedback from air traffic controllers that the built-in capability was too cumbersome to use. Under a contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, sponsored by the FAA TBFM Program Office, Mosaic Software was tasked to create an application for this replay capability that would be available through a web interface – sidestepping the development hurdles and accessibility challenges of the secured TBFM system.
what we did
Working extensively with air traffic control SMEs, we effectively duplicated the graphics and interface from the various TBFM interfaces, creating displays that can be configured and manipulated by the replay users, e.g., a trainee can pan and zoom within map-based displays and can show or hide various features. Without any local specialized hardware or software, a user simply logs into the website, selects the airport and timeframe for playback, and then has access to essentially identical displays and can see a particularly challenging scenario play out, with access to pause, rewind, and fast forward controls.
Mosaic Software quickly and effectively deployed a tool that stores data for all United States air traffic and currently supports real-time analysis of TBFM’s performance and training of future air traffic managers at seven Air Route Traffic Control Centers.