ITT Wins $1.8B Contract for GPS Air Traffic System

ITT this week emerged the winner of a lucrative contract with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to design and build the first component of a new satellite-guided air traffic control system.

The US$207 million initial contract is for the development and deployment of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system, a part of the new “NextGen” system that will move air traffic control away from using radar in favor of satellite positioning.

“This signals a new era of air traffic control,” said FAA Deputy Administrator Bobby Sturgell. “ADS-B — and, in turn, NextGen — will attack the delay problem head-on by dramatically increasing air traffic efficiency.”

From Millions to Billions

The initial contract covers three years of work during which period ITT and members of a team of business partners will “be responsible for overall system integration and engineering,” said ITT. However, the pact is potentially worth $1.86 billion to ITT as it calls for the company to operate and maintain the new system through September 2025.

ITT’s partners on the project include AT&T, Thales North America, WSI, SAIC, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Aerospace Engineering, Sunhillo, Comsearch, MCS of Tampa, Pragmatics, Washington Consulting Group, Aviation Communications and Surveillance Systems (ACSS), Sandia Aerospace and NCR.

In winning the contract, the White Plains, N.Y.-based ITT beat out Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. The losing bidders will be debriefed and can challenge the bid award if they desire, FAA spokesperson Tammy Jones said.

Moving More Airplanes

The ITT team will join the FAA to deploy a nationwide network that will employ “field radio sites, data processing centers, network operations centers and equipment to enable delivery of surveillance data to air traffic control facilities,” said the company. “The deployed ADS-B surveillance network is designed to provide more accurate and rapidly updating position data using GPS to determine aircraft position.”

The new system will reduce flight delays, in part by allowing planes to fly closer together, company and FAA officials believe.

It also will be more cost-effective than the current radar-based system and will serve as a possible “data link” to cockpits through which pilots can access safety information and aircraft position information “which will dramatically enhance pilot situational awareness,” the FAA said.

The new system will give pilots graphical weather information, terrain maps and flight information, including temporary flight restrictions and notices. “ADS-B is nearly 10 times more accurate than radar,” said the FAA. “It will allow controllers and pilots to know the precise location of aircraft, resulting in more direct flight routes and airspace efficiency, as well as reduced delays and improved safety.”

Australia already uses a satellite-based air traffic control system, the FAA’s Jones told the E-Commerce Times. The FAA is working with other nations, with the goal being universal use of the new technology. “Other countries have contacted us,” Jones said. “It’s an international effort.”

Situational Awareness

The FAA is requiring ITT to have the system ready for use by 2010. It is giving the company until 2013 to have the system cover the entire nation.

ITT has more than 60 years experience in civil and military air traffic control systems. It has been supplying GPS technology for air traffic control since the 1980s. “Every GPS satellite launched features an ITT navigation payload,” said the company.

ITT will build the ground stations and will own and operate the equipment. The FAA will pay “subscription charges” for broadcasts transmitted to aircraft and air traffic control centers.

Pilots Prefer Progress

Pilots welcome the new system, said Capt. Brian Townsend, chairman of Airline Pilots Association International’s National Airspace Systems Modernization Committee.

“Overall, we’re very pleased that the FAA has made the very important step forward toward building the foundation for ADS-B and all the products it will eventually provide, not only for the air traffic control services but also the safety tools it can potentially bring to the flight deck,” Townsend told the E-Commerce Times.

Of specific interest to pilots is the detailed “situational awareness” the system will bring, he said.

“It will show specific taxiways, runways, other aircraft and even ground vehicles,” said Townsend. “It will be tremendous in terms of situational awareness for the pilots.”

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