Anyone who flies into Los Angeles International, San Francisco, San Jose Municipal or several other busy US airports, particularly on the West Coast, needs to shut their mind off from all they have seen in made-for-TV movies about the soapy dramas going on down there between the near-psychotic air traffic controllers trying to separate the heavy commercial airline traffic from unauthorised and unidentified private aircraft taken up by their pilots for joy-rides – and all they heard and read about last year’s catastrophic collisions between airliners and light planes over Cerritos, California and Salt Lake City, Utah. Now a company in Tigard, Oregon reckons that it may have come up with an answer. Arnav Systems Inc claims that if the light planes involved had been equipped with its TCA Alert system, the crashes might never have happened – because the product is designed to keep pilots out of the areas where nearly all collisions and near misses occur. TCA Alert is a software enhancement for Arnav’s aircraft Lorans – cockpit navigation computers that use satellite signals to provide a pilot with bearing and distance to a pre-programmed location, and other valuable flight information. TCA Alert automatically interrupts normal Loran navigation to warn a pilot when his or her flight path is about to take the aircraft into a restricted or prohibited zone, a Terminal Control Area – TCA, Airport Radar Service Area, or Military Operations Area, areas in which small planes and commercial airliners must share airspace, often with disastrous results. Arnav has programmed a map of the entire US into ROM, with exact diagrams of every special-use airspace in the country. A pilot whose Loran is equipped with TCA Alert will automatically get a visual warning 10 minutes prior to penetration, two minutes prior to penetration and upon penetration. TCA and ARSA warnings include approach control frequencies so pilots can make radio contact with Air Traffic Control. If the Loran is connected to a cockpit alarm, the pilot will also receive an audio warning. TCA Alert sells for $750, compared with the $100,000 tag on the collision avoidance systems being developed for commercial airliners – but how many pilots are likely to fit it unless it is made mandatory?
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