FAA’s New En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) Program

The implementation date for the FAA’s new En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) program has been set for 29 June 2008. ERAM will replace the En Route Host computer processing systems currently in use at twenty Air Route Traffic Control Centers, making this the largest National Airspace System (NAS) equipment replacement program in the history of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

With the use of ERAM, air traffic controllers at the twenty FAA air route control centers will be capable of tracking 1,900 aircraft at a time, as opposed to the 1,100 which the current system accommodates. ERAM is designed to support 64 radars instead of the current 24, resulting in coverage being extended beyond facility boundaries, which in turn will enable controllers to efficiently handle the additional traffic.

In addition to providing all of the current system’s functionality, ERAM’s new features include: an enhanced backup surveillance system that is capable of providing safety alerts as well as weather information; real-time electronic aeronautical information which facilitates more efficient data management; a fully functional backup system that rules out the need to restrict operations if a primary failure occurs; automatic flight co-ordination which increased efficiency and capacity; increased flexibility with regard to routing around weather, congestion and other restrictions; improved surveillance through a greater number of surveillance sources; and an open-system architecture that will enable ease of integration for future capabilities to ensure a more stable and supportable system.

After operational testing at the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, ERAM will be installed at Salt Lake City first, with all twenty Air Route Traffic Control Centers, as well as the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, being ERAM operational by the end of 2009.

The FAA’s acting administrator, Bobby Sturgell expressed his confidence in the capabilities of ERAM by stating: “This software is a huge step toward the next generation of air traffic control. ERAM is designed to handle performance-based navigation and the most sophisticated aircraft that have just come off the line. It provides better tools for controllers and that is part of what the NextGen system is all about.”