Manager’s Perspective Paper – The National Airspace System (NAS)
March 16, 2013
Dr. Daniel Nation
Ong Wei Jian Lionel
In this report, we will be looking at the National Airspace System (NAS). We will be taking an in depth look at the overview and the infrastructure of the NAS, discuss about the FAA Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), and also examine the future needs of the National Airspace System.
Overview of the NAS
The National Airspace System is defined as a complex combination of systems, procedures, facilities, aircraft, and personnel which work together as one system to ensure safe and efficient air travel in the United States. The NAS consists of several components, and these include:
• NAS Operational Facilities (unstaffed)
• Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC)
• Air Traffic Control Towers (ATCT)
• Ground Radios and Radar Systems
• Aircrafts (commercial, private, and military)
• Airline Personnel (operating, maintaining, and modernizing the system)
• Passengers (commercial and military)
Infrastructure of the NAS
The NAS helps to maintain a safe and efficient flight over the US airspace by allowing all control towers, control centers, radios, radars, and many airports to be interconnected to one another to form a NAS operational communications network. This NAS communications network helps pilots to communicate with air traffic controllers and airline operation centers to ensure a safe flight as they travel over the airspace. There are a three systems that make up the NAS, and these include the Digital Airport Surveillance Radar (DASR) System, the Voice Communication Switching System (VCSS), and the Department of Defense (DoD) Advanced Automation System, or DAAS for short.
The DASR System is a traffic air control radar system that helps to detect aircraft position and weather conditions in the vicinity of civilian and military airfields. It consists of two main electronic subsystems: the primary surveillance radar and the secondary surveillance radar, which make use of electromagnetic waves reflected off aircraft to monitor their positions.
The VCSS is the communications system used to manage the voice communications of any Air Traffic Control (ATC) facility. The VCSS must be able to support all analog and digital communications between the DoD, the ATC facilities, and the pilots.
The DAAS is a system that is used to retrieve and process radar data, flight plans, and weather / airport environmental data to support DoD ATC services. The system transmits part or all of this processed data to a display or workstation (within geographical proximity) for air traffic controllers to access in order for them to control and monitor the activities in the airspace.
FAA NextGen Air Transportation System
The NextGen program is an initiative developed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help improve the efficiency, convenience and dependability of the NAS. The NextGen modernization of the U.S. air traffic system seeks to increase the efficiency of the NAS through technological advancements; and as well as improved approaches and procedures.
The NextGen program plans to make use of satellite navigation, which will allow pilots to know the precise locations of other airplanes around them and enhance the overall safety of air travel.
Airports are now already benefitting from the NextGen program. These new capabilities include the national rollout of a network of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) ground transceivers. These transceivers will receive GPS position reports from aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out (an upgrade required by 2020 for aircraft flying in most controlled airspace); and by 2013, these...