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This article was Originally Published on Jul 01, 2002 in Volume: 1  Issue: 3

Learning the Ways of CAATS and MAATs

Training has begun for Canada's new Military Automated Air Traffic System, which will augment that nation's ATC system.

By Dan Cook

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Training for Canada's new Military Automated Air Traffic System (MAATS) continues apace, with operational training under way for the new air traffic control (ATC) system designed to go into service next year. Raytheon Canada Ltd. (RCL) said last December that factory acceptance testing for MAATS had been completed and that all functional requirements had achieved a 100 percent pass rate.

The MAATS was designed and built for Canada's Department of National Defense (DND) by RCL. Both operational and technical training - which will last for approximately a year - are already under way, according to Adrienne White, a spokeswoman for RCL. White said Raytheon will train as many as 180 DND operational and support staff for the MAATS sites, where installations are scheduled to begin early next year.

MAATS is based on the Canadian Automated Air Traffic System (CAATS), developed by Raytheon for Nav Canada (the non-share capital private firm that owns and operates Canada's civil air navigation service). MAATS has some additional enhancements such as an integrated radar data processing capability, portable tower and sensor interfaces, and a military man-machine interface, Raytheon said.

Under the CAATS and MAATS programs, RCL's Richmond, British Columbia, facility (RCL-RF) is providing the nation's ATC systems with an advanced flight data-processing capability and supplying air traffic controllers with integrated, high-performance workstations. Using large-surface, high-resolution displays and color graphics, the common controller workstations combine radar and flight data displays and replace many manual operations with automated functions, including flight path assurance and conflict probe.

The CAATS and MAATS systems will enable air traffic controllers to operate more efficiently at increased traffic levels while maintaining safety. Through open architecture design, which enables new functions to be easily added, CAATS and MAATS will remain advanced systems as technology and needs evolve.

The MAATS program includes installations at two Military Terminal Control Centers, nine towers, three Rescue Coordination Centers, and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) base in North Bay, Ontario.  In addition, a number of transportable Tactical Air Traffic Systems will be provided.

MAATS has already passed factory acceptance testing, which was conducted at Raytheon's integration and test facility in Richmond. DND operational and technical personnel participated in the test procedure development and witnessed both the final dry runs and formal tests. "This represents a major milestone for MAATS and demonstrates that it is not only mature and stable, but is ready for training and deployment," said Grant Rusconi, general manager of the Richmond facility. The ongoing phase for MAATS is the conduct of operational and maintenance training at the Raytheon facilities in Richmond. This will be followed by one year of site installation and site acceptance testing activity. The completion of MAATS is expected in late 2003.

"Under this program, the military is basically getting the same system as Nav Canada, with some add-ons for military-specific applications, and as part of this modernization the military are relocating their instrument flight rules operations to two centers, one in Edmonton and one in Montreal," said Lawrence Melen, technical director for the MAATS program for RCL. "It's an air traffic control system," said Melen. "That's its main mission. But it does provide coordination facilities for the rescue coordination centers and the air defense system as well."

In 2001, more than 200,000 passengers boarded airplanes daily on more than 6 million commercial aviation flights in Canada. The aircraft are monitored and controlled by controllers at seven Area Control Centers located at or near Canadian airports. The controllers' mission is accomplished through a combination of control systems, including radar, flight data and operational information (e.g., weather, and voice communication processing) systems, many of which are older, custom-developed systems.

CAATS is designed to consolidate all these data on integrated, high-performance workstations, thus enabling controllers to support increased traffic levels while maintaining safety in operations. Connecting all CAATS facilities is a high-speed data communications network stretching across Canada. That network also ties together a select number of external air traffic management systems. All systems are redundant and are capable of providing uninterrupted operation in the event of failures.

ATC is based on a large and diverse infrastructure of support systems. These are classified as communications, including air-to-ground radios and ground-to-ground voice circuits between ATC facilities; navigation, such as directional radio beacons and the Global Positioning System; surveillance, the primary example being radar; and air traffic management, meaning those information systems that collect, manage and distribute flight and flight-related information among all interested parties.

These systems, known collectively as CNS/ATM, traditionally have operated in partial or total electronic isolation from one another, requiring varying degrees of manual involvement to ensure that controllers have all the information they require in order to maintain aircraft separation. Today, most controller handoffs still are done primarily by voice. With CAATS, controllers interact through specially configured workstations that display information such as flight plans, radar information and weather maps, and allow the controllers to forward information they create or modify to the CAATS servers for processing and distribution. 

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