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Tracon
by Paul McElroy
Publisher: Japphire Products LLC
Address:

, ,

Web Site:
Price:
 $0.00
Copyright:
 2000
Binding:  Paperback Height:

 7.00

Width:

 4.25

Pages:  493 No. Photos:
 
ISBN:
0967996309

ORD TRACON, The Terminal Air Traffic Control facility at O'Hare Field, Chicago, has the heaviest workload per controller of any facility in the United States. This novel about air traffic control expands to include sex, love, greed, political intrigue, a yellow Labrador Retriever fetching 50K in extortion money and an 18-pound cat. The central theme, however, is the debate over the sometimes conflicting roles of human controllers and machines in the air traffic control system. The author apparently has thoroughly researched his theme. He acknowledges the help of nearly 100 professionals in aviation, controllers, pilots and police. Situations of extreme stress in front of the radar scope and in the cockpit are vividly described. There is a midair collision between two airliners over Lake Michigan. Two controllers are suspended. One of the controllers declares that the collision was caused by a faulty TCAS, a collision avoidance system in one of the airliners. TCAS is installed in the airliner. It includes a scope called a "fish finder" which displays the nearest traffic. An audio warning goes off when TCAS interprets a potential collision. This is called a Conflict Alert(CA).The CA symbol appears next to the target on the controller's screen. When a canned voice instructs the pilot on evasive action, ("climb," "descend," "increase descent") this is called a Resolution Advisory (RA). Pilots like TCAS for the same reason they prefer ILS to GCA; it gives them more control. They believe that it is insurance against mistakes made by controllers. They do not consider controllers to be incompetent; they just believe that overworked controllers can be imperfect. Some airlines instruct their pilots to ignore instructions from the controller if it conflicts with input from their TCAS. Controllers are at a disadvantage in the debate over 100% confidence in TCAS. They sound like they object because they are afraid of being automated out of their jobs. The author presents the controllers' case. TCAS has limitations: it does not understand human intent, such as when a pilot intends to level of; it does not recognize terrain; it does not crosscheck information, such as altitude, which it receives. TCAS is supposed to transmit a signal and wait for a response. Sometimes it attempts to do this simultaneously and will assume that the aircraft it is aboard is the target. TCAS ordinarily shuts down if there is a discrepancy in altitude information between the Mode C transponder and the cockpit altimeter. If a backup system provides faulty altitude information, TCAS will not verify but will use the faulty information. Before the mid-air collision, the radar scope showed continuous fluctuations in altitude by one of the airliners, which meant that the Mode C transponder, possibly damaged by a hard landing, was malfunctioning. The TCAS did not react to this malfunction. Following airline policy, the pilot ignored the controllers instruction to maintain altitude and climbed into the other airplane. The central character of the story, controller Ryan Kelly, acknowledged TCAS to be a useful tool for controllers and pilots. He recommended the following changes; I. Make it recog-nize terrain and understand clearance intent 2. Provide a longer alert times so that pilots can ask controllers to confirm what this computer is telling them. Kelly concluded his testimony by saying; "One of the first things an air traffic controller learns is that we can't make mistakes. The computer should be held to the same standard." ORD TRACON, The Terminal Air Traffic Control facility at O'Hare Field, Chicago, has the heaviest workload per controller of any facility in the United States. This novel about air traffic control expands to include sex, love, greed, political intrigue, a yellow Labrador Retriever fetching 50K in extortion money and an 18-pound cat. The central theme, however, is the debate over the sometimes conflicting roles of human controllers and machines in the air traffic control system. The author apparently has thoroughly researched his theme. He acknowledges the help of nearly 100 professionals in aviation, controllers, pilots and police. Situations of extreme stress in front of the radar scope and in the cockpit are vividly described. There is a midair collision between two airliners over Lake Michigan. Two controllers are suspended. One of the controllers declares that the collision was caused by a faulty TCAS, a collision avoidance system in one of the airliners. TCAS is installed in the airliner. It includes a scope called a "fish finder" which displays the nearest traffic. An audio warning goes off when TCAS interprets a potential collision. This is called a Conflict Alert(CA).The CA symbol appears next to the target on the controller's screen. When a canned voice instructs the pilot on evasive action, ("climb," "descend," "increase descent") this is called a Resolution Advisory (RA). Pilots like TCAS for the same reason they prefer ILS to GCA; it gives them more control. They believe that it is insurance against mistakes made by controllers. They do not consider controllers to be incompetent; they just believe that overworked controllers can be imperfect. Some airlines instruct their pilots to ignore instructions from the controller if it conflicts with input from their TCAS. Controllers are at a disadvantage in the debate over 100% confidence in TCAS. They sound like they object because they are afraid of being automated out of their jobs. The author presents the controllers' case. TCAS has limitations: it does not understand human intent, such as when a pilot intends to level of; it does not recognize terrain; it does not crosscheck information, such as altitude, which it receives. TCAS is supposed to transmit a signal and wait for a response. Sometimes it attempts to do this simultaneously and will assume that the aircraft it is aboard is the target. TCAS ordinarily shuts down if there is a discrepancy in altitude information between the Mode C transponder and the cockpit altimeter. If a backup system provides faulty altitude information, TCAS will not verify but will use the faulty information. Before the mid-air collision, the radar scope showed continuous fluctuations in altitude by one of the airliners, which meant that the Mode C transponder, possibly damaged by a hard landing, was malfunctioning. The TCAS did not react to this malfunction. Following airline policy, the pilot ignored the controllers instruction to maintain altitude and climbed into the other airplane. The central character of the story, controller Ryan Kelly, acknowledged TCAS to be a useful tool for controllers and pilots. He recommended the following changes; I. Make it recog-nize terrain and understand clearance intent 2. Provide a longer alert times so that pilots can ask controllers to confirm what this computer is telling them. Kelly concluded his testimony by saying; "One of the first things an air traffic controller learns is that we can't make mistakes. The computer should be held to the same standard."

Al Hansen

 

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