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Currently the Federal Aviation Administration FAA is in the midst of developing and implementing a new automated air traffic control system that will allow controllers to more efficiently deal with the demands of increased air traffic For example computer will do some traditional air traffic controller tasks like determining how far apart planes should be kept Present separation standards call for a 2000-foot vertical spacing between two aircraft operating above 29000 feet and flying the same ground track With the aid of new technologies the FAA will be able to reduce this vertical separation standard to 1000 feet Improved communication between computers on airplanes and those on the ground also is making the controllers job a little easier At present controllers sit at consoles with green glowing screens that display radar images generated by a computer In the future controllers will work at a modern workstation computer that depicts air routes in full-color on a 20- by 20-inch screen The controllers will select radio a channel simply by touching on-screen buttons instead of turning dials or switching switches The new technology will also enable controllers to zoom in on selected corners of the air space that is their responsibility and get better images of moving traffic than is possible with todays machines The new automated air traffic control system is expected to become operational in several phases over the next 8 years The FAA is also considering implementing a system called free flight which would give pilots much more freedom in operating their aircraft The change will require new concepts of shared responsibility between controllers and pilots Air traffic controllers will still be central to the safe operation of the system but their responsibilities will eventually shift from controlling to monitoring flights At present controllers assign routes altitudes and speeds Under the new system airlines and pilots would choose them Controllers would intervene only to ensure that aircraft remained at safe distances from
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