Go Back  PPRuNe Forums > Ground & Other Ops Forums > ATC Issues
Reload this Page >

Electronic flight progress strips....what system is the best

ATC Issues A place where pilots may enter the 'lions den' that is Air Traffic Control in complete safety and find out the answers to all those obscure topics which you always wanted to know the answer to but were afraid to ask.

Electronic flight progress strips....what system is the best

Old 14th Aug 2010, 15:43
  #21 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: France
Age: 50
Posts: 250
The best system remains paper and pen. Never lets you down !
If it does... just be sure you've got a backup solution in a pocket.
BrATCO is offline  
Old 15th Aug 2010, 16:18
  #22 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Here, where I am
Posts: 24
Couldn't agree more!
Bring back Tridents is offline  
Old 15th Aug 2010, 23:37
  #23 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: uk
Posts: 1,113
Well the management won't listen if the primary objective is to save money by reducing ATSA staff.I have heard that strips disappear,the system doesn't understand the various demands that VFR traffic put on it (at my old unit),and controllers are very much heads down on the EFPS panel.
But no doubt trumpets will have been blown.ATSA numbers will be slashed later in the year,and the management will be ordering their 60 plate limmos,and slapping themselves on the back.
throw a dyce is offline  
Old 16th Aug 2010, 01:10
  #24 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Wellington,NZ
Age: 61
Posts: 1,626
I wonder, if the main objective is to save an ATSA salary or two, how much the thing costs to purchase and install, how many extra software gurus will be required to service it, and what the ongoing cost of upgrades/replacements will be?
The business units are probably structured in a way that those costs are spread across many different ledgers.

As important as killing off a few jobs, what will the long term effect of this be on the way controllers control? I see it as another key step in the headlong rush to fill automation. The role of our profession will eventually become that of systems monitor. Possibly, even to a degree, in ADC.
Tarq57 is offline  
Old 18th Aug 2010, 09:50
  #25 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Earth, mostly
Posts: 15
mmmmm...

This reminds me of a rather heated discussion that I started about 6 months ago, hey Tarq57? Although my agenda at the time was coming at this subject from a slightly different angle, and in the end I stirred the hornets nest intentionally to get people talking, I came to the conclusion that EFPS is not a mature product at this time.
It kind of falls into the same basket as voice recognition, sounds really good, but unless its smart enough to work out the difference between "number 1 at the holding point" and "the red piper holding short of RWXX" its not ready. The conclusion I came to is its fine for some aspects of ATC, especially en-route, but throw in VFR, military etc, and even the most mature of the systems (and I looked closely at a lot of them) are still left wanting.
One day though, I have no doubt that it will be the standard, or more likely voice recognition and EFPS will integrate seamlessly, I just cringe thinking that some controllers are basically working in a live lab that is feeding the industrial system engineers. Lets hope the worst doesn't happen due to an unforeseen piece of Swiss cheese...

The only part of the argument that I feel should be closed off is system reliability, if its designed properly, with the right engineering standards applied, and with the correct system maintenance planned for, it will be rock solid.
SimGod is offline  
Old 18th Aug 2010, 10:00
  #26 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Wellington,NZ
Age: 61
Posts: 1,626
Oh yes, it's rock solid.
We only have to restart one of ours on average every three days, because of a lockup or similar.

Never mind.

The chance of this coinciding with something busy and non standard occurring are very low. So far brief system unavailability has only happened during light traffic. It's probably quite safe.
Tarq57 is offline  
Old 18th Aug 2010, 17:39
  #27 (permalink)  
Beady Eye
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: UK
Posts: 1,519
Originally Posted by Tarq57 View Post
I wonder, if the main objective is to save an ATSA salary or two,
It's to allow 'the system' to know what the controller is doing. So long as the system remains dumb it cannot provide you with much in the way of tools to assist you in doing your job.
what will the long term effect of this be on the way controllers control? I see it as another key step in the headlong rush to fill automation. The role of our profession will eventually become that of systems monitor. Possibly, even to a degree, in ADC.
Headlong rush? How long has ATC been around and how long does it take to make any changes, we're an extremely conservative bunch. Systems monitor no, the human will always be in executive control but you could definitely do with a lot more help from system tools to make life safer, easier and move more traffic.

BD
BDiONU is offline  
Old 18th Aug 2010, 18:10
  #28 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Berkshire, UK
Age: 74
Posts: 8,244
<<but you could definitely do with a lot more help from system tools to make life safer, easier and move more traffic.>>

But surely, operating extra equipment distracts the controller from his primary task? The first "tool" which would supposedly assist the controller with radar sequencing required the controllers to input, via keyboard, every instruction they gave. It simply did not work. All I ever needed was a working pen... seemed to work pretty well!
HEATHROW DIRECTOR is offline  
Old 18th Aug 2010, 18:36
  #29 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: 5116N00044W
Age: 71
Posts: 179
Back in the 80s, I had a non-ops ATCO colleague who had a flight strip pinned to his office noticeboard with '1940s technology' written on it and crossed out with '1950s technology', '1960s technology' and '1970s technology' all crossed out and '1980s technology' left clear. There wouldn't have been space to get up to '2010s technology'! Back then, we thought that paperless operation was just around the corner (a bit like nuclear fusion for power generation). The only change since then seems to be that strips have got a bit shorter.
PeltonLevel is offline  
Old 18th Aug 2010, 20:21
  #30 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Retired to Leafy Bucks
Posts: 94
When I joined NATS (well Board of Trade to be precise) I was a Radio Technician and I worked on the Marconi Myriad Flight Plan Processing System* at West Drayton. It did electronic flight strips for the military. Now 40 years later almost to the day I am working on EFD for Prestwick and Swanwick.

Have I spent the last 40 years in a time warp?

Anyway I'm out of here in 26 days so good luck to EFD :-)

* Sad techy fact, the whole system ran on three parallel running 24Kbyte computers
goldfrog is offline  
Old 18th Aug 2010, 20:25
  #31 (permalink)  
Beady Eye
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: UK
Posts: 1,519
Originally Posted by HEATHROW DIRECTOR View Post
But surely, operating extra equipment distracts the controller from his primary task?
But that's the point, when you make your inputs electronically instead of on paper you facilitate system tools to do things for you, without additional input.
The first "tool" which would supposedly assist the controller with radar sequencing required the controllers to input, via keyboard, every instruction they gave. It simply did not work. All I ever needed was a working pen... seemed to work pretty well!
Yeah it did but we're looking to the future and what system tools can do for us. It's quite possible that some current controllers that go through the pain of transferring to electronics will never reap the benefits, but future generations of controllers will

BD
BDiONU is offline  
Old 18th Aug 2010, 21:44
  #32 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: The foot of Mt. Belzoni.
Posts: 2,017
"the pain of transferring to electronics'.
Says it all BD.
Pelton, it was odd that the strips got shorter, wasn't it?, - just when, (allegedly) more information needed to be written on each one.

Last edited by ZOOKER; 18th Aug 2010 at 21:58.
ZOOKER is offline  
Old 19th Aug 2010, 00:29
  #33 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: australia
Posts: 607
As I heard from a wise old pilot, 'the problem with automation and computers is getting the old guys to trust it , and the young guys not to trust it'.

Here in Oz, with our computerised TAAATS system, it seems to work pretty well. We have grown used to it after ten plus years and alot of upgrades to make it more user friendly. However it is only as good as the programs put into it. e.g a seemingly innocuous click from someone upstream can have repercussions downstream for the automatic co-ordination.

Many of our functions can be done either through the electronic strip or by interacting with the track/label on the screen, so you don't have to take your eyes away from the screen.

Those who have been on the system for years have evolved that unconscious competence that a glance at the electronic strip triggers something isn't quite right with the data displayed.

It is something you get used to. One of the problems with system alerting is spurious alarms. e.g. you have received a clearance for an aircraft to enter a Danger Area but the system will still have kittens if you have not turned the alarm off, which you maybe loathe to do as you need to remember to turn it on for controllers downstream. This also affects the alarms for Wx Div, STCA (Short Term Conflict Alert) when traffic has already been given, etc.

On the whole an electronic strip/ computerised system has been a big plus in the colony.

A word of warning though this may happen ( and I'm not saying this is my experience in Oz), management will be told by the sales people SELLING these systems that they will cost thrupence hapenny, can be safely run by two people and a tech, and run on the smell of an oily rag/ AAA battery. Management will be all agog at where they will spend the huge bonus coming their way when the system comes on line.

As the system evolves they will work out that it will end up costing many times what they were led to believe and a hell of a lot more to run/ upgrade as problems are encountered and 'consultants' are engaged. Some of the consultants may be the ex-managers who signed up for the system in the first place as they are now working for the company who sold them the system.
Realising that the only item they still have some control over , and not believing that the company selling the system may have gilded the lily somewhat to close the sale, the big push will be for a reduction in staff numbers, there may be also be a big push to dumb down the training as management may believe that people are now just helping the computer to do its job.

It is a constant cause of wonder to me that managers or organisations buy a computer system for a specific business, be it for rostering/ business reporting/ accounts/ travel buying/ etc, from a salesperson and then are shocked to discover that it is not completely suitable for their unique organisation, and that money needs to be sent to tailor it to their specific needs. The companies selling these products are not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts.

Most importantly refer to my comment at the top.
max1 is offline  
Old 19th Aug 2010, 07:13
  #34 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: 5116N00044W
Age: 71
Posts: 179
Correction to Goldfrog's sad techy fact - the Myriad actually had 32K 24-bit words - 4 times as much memory as he suggests.
It was supposed to do the civil FDP as well but just wasn't big enough, hence the 9020. In order to support British industry, the latter was bought without controller input capabilities, which were going to be provided by Marconi but that project was cancelled in one of the many belt-tightening exercises of the 70s. Controller input was never provided.
PeltonLevel is offline  
Old 19th Aug 2010, 16:58
  #35 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: cambs
Age: 64
Posts: 55
With all this enthusiasm(by some)for EFPS,can someone tell me if they work at an Area/Terminal unit, where one controller only does the r/t,many phone calls and still inputs info electronically?After 37 years in ATC,I'm not averse to new technology,but please give me something thats an improvement for sake.
tczulu is offline  
Old 22nd Aug 2010, 06:01
  #36 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Earth, mostly
Posts: 15
@ Tarq57

Perhaps you were unlucky? Frustrations should be directed at your procurement team and local engineers if thats happening!!

The ONLY time any system used in an operational environment should need to be rebooted is as part of an ongoing maintenance schedule, usually quarterly, and this should obviously be done during traffic troughs in coordination with the ATCO's

Also, have you checked the terms and conditions of the support agreement with your supplier?
SimGod is offline  
Old 22nd Aug 2010, 09:13
  #37 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Wellington,NZ
Age: 61
Posts: 1,626
I normally consider myself pretty lucky.

There was a "constructive feedback folder" in the cab for a few months following the introduction of the technology.

It started to fill up pretty fast.
It's not only myself in the tower that feels that way.

Tell you what, in an environment where looking outside fairly frequently is important, and scanning, and having a few things "on the go", mentally, a system that forces one (a) into a linear/serial mode of operation, and (b) requires a fair bit of heads-down time, is not appropriate, even without the issues experienced.

[edit] not much has been addressed, from the items entered into the folder, by the way. It is "expected" the next version, due in 2 or 3 months, will resolve the issues. We'll see.

Last edited by Tarq57; 22nd Aug 2010 at 09:44. Reason: addition
Tarq57 is offline  
Old 22nd Aug 2010, 09:26
  #38 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Earth, mostly
Posts: 15
Thats interesting. Did the supplier ask for the feedback or is this an AirwaysNZ product?

The fact that they're asking for constructive feedback would make me think this is not COTS software as feedback for change implies software amendments can be considered, which in turn implies in-house development. (just guessing)

I still think you need to talk to your safety and standards officer together with the senior engineer and find out why the system needs to be rebooted every 3 days. Sounds like the hardware solution is either not fit for purpose or the engineering standards should be reviewed.

For the heads-down time, does it really require more interaction time than paper strips where you have to write and sort the board manually? My study did not see this as a factor once the ATCO learnt how to interact with the HMI efficiently, which shouldn't be more than a matter of a couple of sessions in a simulator.
SimGod is offline  
Old 22nd Aug 2010, 09:45
  #39 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Retired to Leafy Bucks
Posts: 94
Sounds like the hardware solution is either not fit for purpose or the engineering standards should be reviewed.
If a system needs rebooting every three days it is very unlikely to be a hardware problem, almost certainly a memory leak somewhere in the software causing the free memory to be used up requiring a system reboot.
goldfrog is offline  
Old 22nd Aug 2010, 10:02
  #40 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Wellington,NZ
Age: 61
Posts: 1,626
For the heads-down time, does it really require more interaction time than paper strips where you have to write and sort the board manually?
Yes, very much so.
My study did not see this as a factor once the ATCO learnt how to interact with the HMI efficiently, which shouldn't be more than a matter of a couple of sessions in a simulator.
What efs system did your study use, and was this in an actual aerodrome control environment, an actual centre environment, or a simulator environment?
What light levels were present in the environment the study took place in?
Tarq57 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us Archive Advertising Cookie Policy Privacy Statement Terms of Service

Copyright 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.