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February 22, 1988

NEW US AIR TRAFFIC CPU GOES LIVE, HIGHLIGHTS UK PROBLEM

By CBR Staff Writer

They’re very proud of their new air traffic control computer down in Hampton, Georgia – but the terms in which they enthuse over the new machine are enough to ground any nervous flyers, especially after the second UK air miss this month was reported over the weekend. Associated Press reports that the new IBM 3083 at the Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center processes data 10 times faster than its 18-year-old predecessor. Federal Aviation Administration officials say that the 3083 can also store more than four times more information than the old system, and that when the old computer ran out of storage capacity, it would erase two-hour-old flight plans and delete weather data from radar screens. In peak periods, processing data updated by controllers and returning it to their screens could take 30 seconds, a long time when jets are moving at 500 mph. The old system will have been an IBM 360-derived 9020D, just like the one that is generating so much flak at the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s centre at West Drayton, and the problem is that the US Aviation body is less than halfway through a 10-year, $15,000m modernisation of the US air traffic control system, so that other old 9020Ds will have to keep people in the air all over America as well as here for several years yet before they are replaced.

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