U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx Announces Completion of Major NextGen Foundational Technology

April 30, 2015
En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM), a highly advanced computer system used by air traffic controllers to safely manage high-altitude traffic, has been completed.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced a significant NextGen milestone with the completion of En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM), a highly advanced computer system used by air traffic controllers to safely manage high-altitude traffic.

“Looking at the future of air travel, we know that there will be more planes in our skies and more people in our airports, and in order to meet this challenge we must integrate cutting-edge technology into our aviation system,” said Secretary Foxx.  “ERAM is a major step forward in our relentless efforts to develop and implement NextGen.  With this new technology, passengers will be able to get to their destinations, faster, safer, and have a smoother ride – all while burning less fuel to get there.”

ERAM is the backbone of operations at 20 of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) en route air traffic control centers.  The system, a crucial foundation for NextGen, drives display screens used by air traffic controllers to safely manage and separate aircraft.

“ERAM gives us a big boost in technological horsepower over the system it replaces,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.  “This computer system enables each controller to handle more aircraft over a larger area, resulting in increased safety, capacity, and efficiency.”

The first ERAM system went online at Salt Lake City Center in March 2012.  The final installation was completed last month at New York Center. 

ERAM uses nearly two million lines of computer code to process critical data for controllers, including aircraft identity, altitude, speed, and flight path.  The system almost doubles the number of flights that can be tracked and displayed to controllers.  ERAM was designed to be the operating platform for other NextGen technologies, including: 

  • Performance Based Navigation (PBN):  Controllers are already using ERAM to make use of Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures that enable controllers and flight crews to know exactly when to reduce the thrust on aircraft, allowing them to descend from cruising altitude to the runway with the engines set at idle power, saving on flying time and fuel consumption.
  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B):  The FAA is moving steadily toward replacing the old system of ground-based radars to track aircraft with one that relies on satellite-based technologies.  ERAM already receives information from aircraft equipped with ADS-B and displays that data on controllers’ screens.  This technology has made it possible for controllers to provide radar-like separation to aircraft that previously operated in areas where no radar is available, such as the Gulf of Mexico and large parts of Alaska.  ADS-B will replace radar as the primary means of tracking aircraft by 2020.
  • Data Comm:  To reduce congestion on radio frequencies, the FAA and the aviation industry continue to develop Data Comm, which will allow controllers and pilots to communicate by direct digital link rather than voice, similar to text messaging.  ERAM is already equipped to handle this technology.

Secretary Foxx and Administrator Huerta attributed the success of the development and installation of ERAM to the collaboration between FAA management and labor, including the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS).  This collaborative process is now a blueprint that will be applied to the rollout of future technologies.

To see how ERAM works see our video: En Route Automation Forms NextGen Cornerstone