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.
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. 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. 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. This visualization system has been incorporated into TCAS system displays and has become the industry standard for new designs.