Aviation In Canada

Sunday, January 30, 2005

ATC Software Evaluation

I just returned from a trip to Ottawa to help out a large group of individuals in testing CAATS, Canada's next generation of ATC software. This is why there was no post on the 28th, in case you're wondering. Originally, it was supposed to be an all-encompassing, stripless environment. For those who don't know, many ATC units around the world are used to using paper strips which contain flight plan information to maintain clearance data and coordination data with other controllers. Over the last two decades, maybe three, many studies have been undertaken and several countries have attempted to remove the strips from the ATC world and maintain everything electronically. Most controllers have rejected the idea, since these safety-minded individuals are conscious of the fact that computers can freeze up, or spontaneously reboot. If that happens to the whole system at once, what do you do? At a slow time with only one aircraft, that's easy. If you are in a full-blown furball of traffic, which is when a computer will likely have problems due to workload, it's an awful lot harder to deal with.

Anyway, the system is still supposed to produce strips for us, as well as add some functionality for controllers to work with. It has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go before being ready. I needn't say much more about it, really. The idea of trouble-shooting a program can be a troublesome task, but when your program has extremely complex algorhythms and over 1.5 million lines of code, it's so much harder. The guys building it have their work cut out for them. And they're quite a bunch, really. It was good to meet them and hear of their challenges in the process, too.