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Overview of CTAS

The Center TRACON Automation System (CTAS) provides automation tools for planning and controlling arrival air traffic. CTAS generates air traffic advisories designed to increase fuel efficiency, reduce delays, and provide automation assistance to air traffic controllers in achieving acceptable aircraft sequencing and separation as well as improved airport capacity. CTAS accomplishes this without decreasing safety or increasing controller workload.

Twenty areas approximately 400 miles across make up the airspace of the 48 contiguous states. These areas, known as Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs) or "Centers" for short, are further divided into sectors. CTAS's Traffic Management Advisor (TMA) helps a Center's Traffic Management Coordinator (TMC) optimize the arrival traffic flow and create a plan. At the same time, CTAS's En Route Descent Advisor (EDA) assists the air traffic controllers of each sector by probing for and resolving conflicts between aircraft, and providing air traffic control advisories to carry out the TMC's plan.

Image showing the US Airspace Air Route Traffic Control Centers. Click on the D-link for a detailed description.
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In addition, CTAS assists controllers handling arrival air traffic in an area within 40 miles of a major airport. Within these areas, known as Terminal Radar Approach Controls (TRACONs), CTAS's Final Approach Spacing Tool (FAST) assists approach controllers to assign aircraft to runways as well as sequence and schedule aircraft onto the final approach to the runway.

CTAS integrates these functions and thereby provides assistance to air traffic coordinators and controllers in both Centers and TRACONs. Moreover, it can incorporate the actions of controllers by refreshing advisories automatically whenever it receives controllers inputs or detects unplanned events. To insure accuracy, CTAS makes use of highly sophisticated performance models of the major aircraft types encountered at Centers and TRACONs including jets, turboprops, and piston engine aircraft. Also, each element of CTAS adapts to changes in the traffic situation, air traffic controller imposed constraints, and pilot and airline preferences. Each tool provides a distinct benefit while the entire suite of tools greatly improves the coordination between sectors and facilities.

CTAS was developed at the NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California under the scientific leadership of Dr. Heinz Erzberger. Basic research and development has been ongoing since 1968 when early 4D trajectory synthesis and air traffic control concepts were first explored.

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RELATED LINKS
CTAS Tools
+ Traffic Management Advisor
+ Multi-Center Traffic
Management Advisor

+ En Route Descent Advisor
+ Final Approach Spacing Tool
+ User Preferred Routing
+ Direct-To Tool
+ Expedite Departure Path
+ Collaborative Arrival
Planning

+ Surface Management
System


Simulation Software
+ Pseudo Aircraft Systems

Software Implementation
+ Overview
PUBLICATIONS
CTAS Publications
Link to a list of CTAS papers available for download.
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MULTIMEDIA RESOURCES
Image of an air traffic controller running the Collaborative Arrival Planner tool
CTAS Tools
Photos of the FAST and TMA tools.
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Last Updated: September 28, 2015

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