General Question

xgunther's avatar

Why doesn't Oakland Oceanic utilize NASA's ATOP technology for tracking air traffic?

Asked by xgunther (446points) October 13th, 2007 from iPhone

If it’s working for New York ARTCC, why don’t they implement with Oakland Oceanic. Seeing as how when you cross the pacific all there is to track you is a man with a spreadsheet.

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1 Answer

MENSAN's avatar

The Oakland Oceanic Flight Information Region (FIR) is the world’s largest, covering 18.7 million square miles, or approximately 9.7% of the earth’s surface. The Oakland FIR consists of two sectors with radar coverage and 8 sectors of oceanic control. The FIR extends well beyond the Hawaiian Islands and includes Guam and American Samoa. Three radar control areas (Honolulu, Guam and Bucholz Auxiliary Airfield) are surrounded by the Oakland Oceanic FIR. This creates interfaces with 14 different foreign and domestic air traffic control facilities, including Tokyo, Manila, Mexico, Tahiti, Auckland, Nadi, Port Moresby, and Biak.

The bulk of Oakland oceanic traffic flows over a complex and varied Pacific route system. A number of routes connect the continental U.S. and Hawaii with the Pacific Rim, including Japan, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. Another set of routes traverses the westernmost portion of Oakland airspace connecting Japan and Korea on the north with Australia and New Zealand to the south. The Pacific Organized Track System (PACOTS) provides fuel-efficient routes for long distance transpacific flights. These routes are adjusted every 12 hours in response to upper level wind conditions. The most northerly routes are grouped in the North Pacific Composite Route System (NOPAC), whereas the traffic between the continental U.S. and Hawaii flies on the six Central East Pacific Composite Route System.

Over 560 flights are handled on a daily basis by the Oakland Center FIR. Thirteen of the top 25 busiest routes in the world are in the Asia/Pacific region. Oakland Center is projected to have three of the top five busiest routes: Guam-Tokyo, Honolulu-Tokyo, and North America-Toyko.

Oceanic control on VATSIM is handled in a joint operation between the West Coast ARTCC’s to cover the KZOA_FSS position. You can see a graphic of their coverage area, here:

The above information is presented for the benefit of those unfamiliar with it, who may be reading your question and my answer, and who might wish for an explanation of some sort, regarding the subject matter.

It’s my opinion, as a licensed pilot, that those in charge of making such a decision to install and utilize a NASA-ATOP system for that region, have not seen the need for it that you see, assuming that they have not done so, from the time you posed this question in 2007, until now.

If they have not chosen to do so, I would imagine that they believe that such a system is simply not needed at this time, but I definitely share your concerns about it, because if it is indeed a better system than the one currently being utilized, then the ATOP one should definitely be installed, ASAP. But, it has been my experience that many government agencies will spend years evaluating something, before finally “getting around” to doing anything, based on their studies.

The government of the USA, as terrific as it may be, is highly skilled in the art of procrastination, and they aren’t too likely to change their ways.

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