Future ATM Concepts Evaluation Tool
Another NASA air traffic simulation tool, the Future ATM Concepts Evaluation Tool (FACET), was created to allow researchers to explore, develop, and evaluate advanced traffic control concepts. The system can operate in several modes: playback, simulation, live, or in a sort of hybrid mode that connects it with the FAAs Enhanced Traffic Management System (ETMS). ETMS is an operational FAA program that monitors and reacts to air traffic congestion, and it can also predict when and where congestion might happen. (The ETMS is responsible, for example, for keeping a plane grounded in Orlando because of traffic congestion in Atlanta.) Streaming the ETMS live data into a run of FACET makes the simulation of a new advanced traffic control concept more accurate. Moreover, FACET is able to model airspace operations on a national level, processing the movements of more than 5,000 aircraft on a single desktop computer, taking into account aircraft performance, weather, and other variables.
Some of the advanced concepts tested in FACET include allowing aircraft to have greater freedom in maintaining separation on their own, integrating space launch vehicle and aircraft operations into the
airspace, and monitoring how efficiently aircraft comply with ATC instructions when their flights are rerouted. In fact, the last of these concepts was so successful that it was deployed into the FAA’s operational ETMS. NASA reports that the success of FACET has lead to its use as a simulation tool not only with the FAA, but also with several airlines, universities, and private companies. For example, Flight Dimensions International—the world’s leading vendor of aircraft situational displays—recently integrated FACET with its already popular Flight Explorer product. FACET won NASA’s 2006 Software of the Year Award.