AirTran’s Acom System

Problem

AirTran Airways is the second largest low-cost air carrier in the US, servicing more than 50 cities. Once just a small national carrier, it now boards over 8 million passengers per year, with approximately 183 departures a day in Atlanta alone. Operating off of 31 gates and two towers makes the Atlanta AirTran hub one of the busiest ramps in the world.
At one time, the Atlanta AirTran hub’s communication system was operating via multiple technologies. They were using different phones and radios to communicate to the FAA, flight crews, and ground crews, and as a growing hub, this system became largely inefficient due to the lack of information flow between operational groups.
Michael Bernardo, manager of Atlanta Command Center for AirTran, said his control room operators don’t know how they managed with such an archaic system. “You could hardly call it a system,” Bernardo said. “Each position consisted of little more than two walkie-talkies, an Air/ground radio or two and a phone.”

Solution

ACG Systems has been a long-time equipment and support provider to AirTran and was therefore invited to submit a bid for a new, more sophisticated system. They selected the Acom system, which integrated AirTran’s phone and radio into one unified, touch-screen interface. The project was complex, where ACG had to integrate specialized control functions for each phase of a flight’s arrival and departure. Each position had to be individually designed, which resulted in significant engineering efforts.
To meet AirTran’s requirements, the Acom system was designed to:

  • Interface with the airline’s existing VoIP telephone system
  • Integrate with AirTran’s air/ground and ground radio systems
  • Provide access to airline, FAA, and airport “alleyway” ┬áradio channels
  • Include touch-screen access with custom GUI to all airline radio and telephone resources
  • Provide speed-dialing through resources such as pages, jepg images, bitmaps, and imported html files
  • Provide patching capability between telephone-to-radio and radio-to-radio channels
  • Provide recording to meet federal regulations and increase operation wide professionalism
  • Include headsets to reduce control-room noise

The equipment chosen included:

  • 13 Acom Console Units and the Acom Common Control Equipment
  • Multiple ground radio base stations and repeaters
  • Air/ground radio systems, including VHF/AM transceivers
  • 19″ touch screens and wireless headset for each operator

The new console system also provided AirTran the ability to record all communication, which improved professionalism within the entire airline operation. It also improved productivity saving AirTran thousands of resource dollars each year. In a recent study conducted by ACG, the console features such as Speed Dial, Call Transfer and Conference, and patching, theoretically saves the airline approximately $30,000/year per position, or approximately 600 man hours within the control tower.
Bernardo, who is a self-proclaimed demanding customer, said he couldn’t be more pleased with the new system and ACG’s ability to provide technical solutions to match their specific requirements. Since implementation, he is also pleased with their reliable service. “For this project, I asked a lot of questions and asked for a thousand changes as we went along,” he said. “ACG are real communications experts and they never hesitate to do anything to get the job done.”

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