Traffic Collision Avoidance System

By the 1980s, increasing airspace congestion had made the risk of cata­strophic midair collision greater than ever before. Consequently, the 100th Congress passed Public Law 100-223, the Airport and Airway Safety and Capacity Expansion Improvement Act of 1987. This required, among other provisions, that passenger-carrying aircraft be equipped with a Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), independent of air traffic control, that would alert pilots of other aircraft flying in their surrounding airspace.[395]

In response to this mandate, NASA, the FAA, the Air Transport Association, the Air Line Pilots Association, and various aviation technology industries teamed up to develop and evaluate such a system, TCAS I, which later evolved to the current TCAS II. From 1988 to 1992, NASA Ames Research Center played a pivotal role in this major collabor­ative effort by evaluating the human performance factors that came into play with the use of TCAS. By employing ground-based simulators oper­ated by actual airline flightcrews, NASA showed that this system was prac­ticable, at least from a human factors standpoint.[396] The crews were found to be able to accurately use the system. This research also led to improved displays and aircrew training procedures, as well as the validation of a set of pilot collision-evading performance parameters.[397] One example of the new technologies developed for incorporation into the TCAS system is the Advanced Air Traffic Management Display. This innovative system provides pilots with a three-dimensional air traffic virtual-visualization display that increases their situational awareness while decreasing their workload.[398] This visualization system has been incorporated into TCAS system displays and has become the industry standard for new designs.[399]