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Building New Highways in the Sky

15 January 1997


a.gif (1076 bytes) doubling of flight traffic in the next ten years has government officials and private agencies looking for ways to build new highways in the sky. Raja Parasuraman, a professor of psychology at The Catholic University of America, is leading one aspect of an ambitious multi-million project to unclog air traffic. Called "Free Flight," the project is a new concept for managing air traffic in the United States that will cut costs and help air traffic controllers and airports cope with the anticipated increase in traffic.

"The Federal Aviation Administration and private industry are pouring several million dollars into the project to make it reality by the year 2000," says Parasuraman. "Free Flight will provide pilots and aircraft greater flexibility in their routes."

Parasuraman's slice of the project, which began in December 1996, is funded by NASA Ames Research Center. It will examine the impact of Free Flight on controllers, and pilot cognitive abilities and performance. "We must determine whether this can this be done without compromising safety," says Parasuraman.

The project will dovetail with another project funded by NASA Ames to the National Aerospace Lab in Amsterdam. The principal investigator of that project is Brian Hilburn, who received his Ph.D. from Catholic University in 1996 under Parasuraman's direction. "The NLR group will look at the same issues we are, but at a higher fidelity of simulation," Parasuraman said.

Parasuraman is director of the Cognitive Science Laboratory at Catholic University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Human Factors in Air Traffic Control Automation. For more information, or to schedule interviews, call Parasuraman at 202-319-5750 (office) or 202- 667-4121 (home) or call Annamarie DeCarlo, director of media relations, 202-319-5600.

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Revised: 27 October 1997

All contents copyright 1997.
The Catholic University of America,
Office of Public Affairs.