Monday, July 09, 2007

RTF Day 2: The "Green Between" the STARS

Today's Lessons
  • STARS/ACD Orientation
  • Primary and Secondary Radar
  • Separation Procedures
STARS/ACD Orientation

Ok, I love STARS. For those who don't know what the hell that is, it's the "newer" Terminal radar scope. The acronym stands for "Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System". Lots of old facilities using the old monochrome round scopes (ARTS IIE and such) are getting those replaced with newer equipment. Unfortunately, my facility will still have ARTS IIE for the next few years before the new building is put up. Until then, the only colors I'll be working with are bright yellow (traffic I'm working) and duller yellow (traffic I'm not working). :)

Here's a side-by-side comparion of all three STARS, ACD, and ARTS:

Today they divided us up based on which system our facilities will be using. There are only a couple of true STARS people in the class, with most of the class being the old ARTS system. However, since they don't teach ARTS anymore and a lot of us are slated to get STARS at some point at our facilities anyway, about half the class opted to learn on STARS and the other went for ACD (ARTS Color Display). The way it works out is that the STARS half will work a problem on the STARS simulator while the ACD people act as ghost pilots. When the problem finishes we swap positions, and the same problem is run again on ACD with that STARS people now working as ghosts.

ACD is similar to STARS and is also pretty refined. However, in my (very limited) experience STARS' user interface is better and there appear to be more tools built-into the STARS software. I'm sure both have their quirks and issues, but what can you expect? They're both pieces of government hardware and software that probably cost the FAA $3000 per key on its keyboard and twice that for every line of code.

Overall, the system is just very easy to use and there are many options so you can customize how you view your traffic. In the field at your facility, you will have your own individual login. When you sit down at a station and log into the system, it will remember your map and panel preferences. It saves you from having to sit there fiddling with map brightness and range rings and font sizes and all that crap (which we have to do here in RTF since we don't have our own custom logins).

In short, I like the technology.

Primary and Secondary Radar

Lots of review here. No need to go into this stuff. Primary shoots out beams, secondary talks to the airplane, and there's weird stuff that can happen to both. It was covered in CTI school in just about every ATC class (except Non-radar, ha!). It was covered in the Initial Tower class. The horse has been beaten and it is dead.

And even here, none of the instructors have any idea why the word "fruit" is used to describe a transponder getting interrogated by multiple units. There's even a piece of hardware called the "defruiter". Fruity.


This was one of the most important courses we've taken so far. To sum it up, it contains some of the tools that you will use to keep your traffic moving both safely and efficiently as well as some of the restrictions that you need to apply.
  • Divergence: As our instructor put it, if you aim two airplanes at each other, you have "Die". If you angle them 15 degrees apart or more, you've guessed it!... divergence!

    This is one of the tricks allowed in the terminal environment. For instance, let's say you've got two aircraft at the same altitude whose courses will cross. So long as:
    1. You have determined that the targets will indeed cross paths without coming in contact with each other. Note: not guessed or "think" they'll pass. This is a science, not conjecture or theory. You must be absolutely certain that they will indeed pass each other; otherwise, it's "deal time".
    2. You monitor the targets to ensure they do not touch ("green between") you are good to go.
  • Vertical separation: This covered topics such as IFR minima, vertical separation between Special VFR and IFR traffic, etc.
  • Wake Turbulence: The silent killer is back. Here in terminal radar, instead of the ever-present timers used throughout the Initial Tower course, you use vertical separation and mileage to keep separation. It's all figures we've heard before: 4 miles between a heavy and another heavy, 3 miles between large and large, 4 miles between a small and a large, etc. More review, but vital knowledge for this.

    Our instructor gave us an interesting visual for it. Basically, pretend that every heavy has a "stinger" dangling behind it 6 miles long and 1000 feet below. I know it sounds ridiculously stupid, but when you've got a B767 maneuvering around your pattern it makes it easy to visualize a "tail" following it. Just keep that following Citation or King Air away from that "Swinging Tail of Death" and you'll be deal-free.
  • Other Radar Separation: We also covered radar separation from adjacent airspace, formation flights, obstacles, non-radar airspace, etc. Lots of review, but all required knowledge.
  • Visual Separation: We touched on this, but it is not used here at Academy-land. They want us to actually work the traffic instead of punting the separation responsibility on to the pilots. Bastards.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

FRUIT stands for: Friendly Responses Unsynchronous In Time.
I learned that at my first radar facility at NAS Barbers Point, HI in 1996! It was basically an up/down facility. The radar was an RATCF. Radar Air Traffic Control Facility. We did arrival control and final. Honolulu approach provided overlying approach services. We had like surface to 4000. Something like that...