Innovation Adoption and Adaptation in Air Traffic Control: Interaction of Organizations

Innovation Adoption and Adaptation in Air Traffic Control: Interaction of Organizations

Tatjana Bolic
DOI: 10.4018/jskd.2012010102
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With the increased demand for the air travel the air traffic control (ATC) systems have been improving over the years. Today, the advances in the technology can enable even more capacity and better performance for the air travel. With those goals in mind, two distinct, but similar programmes are striving to develop new ATC systems: Next Gen in the USA and SESAR programme in Europe. Both programmes aim at developing new systems for the implementation around the year 2020. The innovation adoption and adaptation is illustrated by the story of User Request Evaluation Tool development and implementation, followed by the discussion of main lessons. First, the lessons learned from the innovation process of the tool itself are discussed, to be followed by the discussion of the interaction of various organizations that were involved.
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Uret Innovation Process

URET, a tool designed to help the assistant controller, has four main functionalities. The core functionality (by design) is an automated Conflict Probe (Kirk, 2002) that detects and displays potential conflicts (up to 20 minutes in the future) in the Aircraft List and Plan display, which automates flight strip management function. The Aircraft List and Plan display is text based and contains the list of active and incoming flight plans, conflict probe alerts in dedicated boxes next to the affected flight plans, and trial planning results. Essentially, this functionality is electronic flight strip replacement. By clicking on a conflict notification controller switches to the graphical display of flight routes of conflicting aircraft where the time to potential conflict is displayed. Another function, Trial Planning, allows a controller to check a desired flight plan amendment that could be change of heading, or altitude or speed or any combination of the three, for potential conflicts. If the trial plan is conflict-free, this clearance can be issued to the pilot and at the same time sent, by the click of a mouse, or by pressing an enter button, to the Host Computer System as a flight plan amendment. Finally, the Route Amendment function offers point-and-click entry of aircraft route amendment. A controller can just click on the list of routes or list of fixes or enter its name in order to change the route directly in the Host Computer System.

URET is an innovation – a new technology at the time of its implementation (Bolic, 2006) - introduced into the Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs) in the USA. These centers are a part of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), which is responsible for providing all Air Traffic Control services in the United States. The decision to implement URET - first on a limited, pilot-testing basis and later in all the centers in the USA - came from FAA management in the course of its ongoing efforts for improvement of the National Airspace System (NAS).

It has been noted that the innovation process in an organization can be decomposed into five stages. The five stages of innovation process (Rogers, 2003) will be utilized here to present URET history in an organized manner. Figure 1 depicts these stages applied to URET innovation process.

Figure 1.

URET innovation process


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