Mayday (2013) s08e01 Episode Script

System Breakdown

NARRATOR: Rush hour, John F.
Kennedy International Airport.
One of the busiest in the world.
More than 1,200 planes use JFK every day.
In the sky, they're stacked up for kilometres, waiting to land.
On the ground, dozens more are waiting to take off.
The constant stream of airliners can tax the abilities of even the most experienced controllers.
The picture, as it's called, that they have to maintain in their head of everything they're controlling, where everybody is, their speed, their altitude, their separation, also includes constant back-and-forth talking to the pilots and this is a matrix of information flow in and out of their brains.
It's just amazing to watch.
On a busy day, in most centres and most departure and arrival controllers, you're saturated.
You've got people talking as fast as they can.
(HUBBUB) And that's where errors come in.
Over the last decade, there's been a 25% jump in traffic at JFK.
And New York's not alone.
It's a trend that concerns some industry experts.
The solution to the looming crisis is being developed here - the William J.
Hughes Technical Center in New Jersey.
It's the workshop of America's Federal Aviation Administration.
The centre has been involved in every major advance in air transportation system technology since 1958.
Airport design, aircraft safety and security .
communications, navigation.
Today, this plane is at the heart of one of the largest projects in the history of the FAA.
They're using it to design a new air traffic system that will help manage more traffic safely.
Together, test pilots and researchers need to figure out a safer way to get airplanes into and out of America's airports.
- 30 seconds.
- OK.
What they've come up with is a system called NextGen.
NextGen will supply pilots with the tools and information they need to make many decisions that are now made by controllers.
At its heart is a sophisticated piece of equipment that will soon be added not to towers but to planes.
We're liberating the airplane to do what it's designed to do and not constraining it by our management.
Researchers have installed a revolutionary navigational computer in the back of this executive jet.
It's called ADS-B.
It stands for Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast.
It's a sophisticated GPS receiver that paints a detailed picture of any plane anywhere near this flight.
So the pilot has what we call 'situational awareness' of what's flying around him.
The aircraft then broadcasts that position once a second.
Once the ADS-B system is fully operational, everyone will know where you are, how high you're flying, and where you're headed.
It's a key piece of the future because it is so accurate.
Human beings cannot be perfect on a sustained basis.
We can for certain periods of time.
Therefore we have to expect failure.
People make mistakes.
It's a lesson the airline industry has learned the hard way, a lesson that fundamentally shaped how planes travel across the skies today.
NEWSREADER: In the few years in which they have been operating, the airlines have discovered that their efforts to improve comforts and services After the Second World War, Americans were travelling by air in booming numbers.
The earliest air traffic controllers stood next to runways.
They waved flags to guide planes in.
As traffic increased, pilots also began to use radios to stay in touch with airports.
Cleared to runway The first air traffic control towers were built as more and more flights had to be handled.
Airports had become very busy places and air traffic was beginning to overwhelm controllers.
June 30, 1956.
Los Angeles International Airport.
TWA Flight 2 lifts off eastbound for Kansas City.
The TWA flight is a Lockheed Super Constellation .
one of the most advanced commercial airliners of its time.
You won't find any pilot who doesn't think the Super Connie's one of the sexiest airplanes ever designed.
Just minutes behind TWA Flight 2, United Airlines Flight 718 takes off from the same airport on its way to Chicago.
The system to track both of the planes is far from high-tech.
The air traffic control centre consisted of a room with a map spread out on a table and the air traffic controllers were moving markers on that map to indicate where each airplane was and its last known position.
The pilots radio their position to company dispatchers.
Controllers use this information to get a rough idea of their flight paths.
They were on radar for a while in Los Angeles, but once they got outside that area, there was no radar.
They were flying under visual flight rules.
The rule is called 'see and be seen'.
So I see you, you see me, we stay apart.
We're responsible for our own separation.
And except for a few radars in certain parts of the country, controllers didn't really know where the airplanes were.
They were estimating on their reports.
As the two planes get closer to the Grand Canyon, the distance between them disappears.
Both captains were used to showing the canyon off on a clear day.
They could move the airplane to the left, move it to the right a little bit, point out the canyon to people and get them to ooh and aah.
The United flight closes in on the TWA plane from the right, unaware their paths are about to cross.
People on one side of the DC-7 would have been able to see the oncoming Constellation.
Would've seen an airplane against an azure sky with fluffy clouds coming closer and closer.
And they would've felt the impact.
NEWSREADER: The Grand Canyon is a graveyard for 128 passengers and crew of two airliners which crashed on peaks little more than a mile apart.
None survived.
It was the worst commercial air disaster in history.
The Grand Canyon crash created huge banner headlines across the nation and a lot of pressure on the government to do something.
We needed radar.
We needed to buy it and deploy it throughout the United States immediately.
We had to change the system and we had to do it fast.
The crash killed 128 people and changed the world of air traffic control forever.
Following a lengthy investigation, the stark conclusion was that the crash happened because the two planes were outside of so-called controlled airspace.
Once the planes left the small area being monitored by controllers, no-one was paying attention to where they were.
The 'see and avoid' principle is a fraud and it always has been.
The fact is, the faster you go, it's a big sky, you've only got 180 degrees of peripheral vision and you can't see and avoid everything up there.
In the wake of the Grand Canyon accident, American airspace was blanketed by radar.
Planes were more stringently confined to air corridors - highways in the sky.
The air traffic control system we have in the United States today was designed with the Grand Canyon accident in mind.
That crash determined how far apart airplanes should be spaced and where radar dishes and air traffic control centres should be built.
It also resulted in the formation of the Federal Aviation Administration - the FAA.
But now, 50 years later, the system needs to change again.
As planes fly faster and higher, it becomes harder for controllers to track their movements.
(HUBBUB) I think in many respects we're in a very similar situation to where we were in the '50s.
The system has to change massively.
And the change must happen soon, before we are faced with a major air accident that could take the lives of hundreds of people.
The technology onboard the FAA flight might be the solution to the overtaxed air traffic control system.
Test pilots regularly take to the skies to help researchers prepare the new system for America's airliners.
MAN: The beautiful thing about ADS-B is it gives the pilots in the cockpit and the air traffic controllers basically the same picture.
With ADS-B, you'll see who that other aircraft is.
You'll see an identifier on it.
You'll be able to see planes on runways.
You'll see planes in the traffic pattern.
And you'll get a better feel for what's going on around you.
Especially if you're in an uncontrolled airport.
We can also see map information.
We can see navigational aids.
We can also see other airports.
Giving pilots all that information in the cockpit will allow them to make decisions about how to get to their destinations quickly and safely.
FELDER: The current system relies on radars for the detection and tracking of aircraft, and radar was a great technology in 1940.
But fundamentally it's very sloppy.
Today, ground-based radar bounces radio signals off an airplane to calculate its position.
It can be off by as much as two miles.
That's why we keep aircraft three miles or more apart because we're just not that confident of the solution.
With NextGen, an onboard GPS unit will constantly receive signals from a GPS satellite.
This will tell pilots where they are, down to within a few hundred feet.
With a more accurate picture of airspace, airliners will be able to fly closer together.
The FAA hopes this will relieve the congestion of busy airports.
Today, only controllers have an accurate picture of air traffic.
They use this information to guide pilots around potential problems.
The pilots themselves have no way to independently confirm where they are in relation to all other flights.
They must rely on controllers to tell them.
The weakness of the system was exposed years before NextGen tests began.
Labor Day weekend, 1986.
MAN: (OVER RADIO) Aeromexico 498, traffic.
10 o'clock Approach controller Walter White guides Aeromexico Flight 498 in for a landing at Los Angeles International Airport.
The airspace around LAX is very tightly controlled.
It's called the TCA - the Terminal Control Area.
As Aeromexico Flight 498 closes in on the airport, Walter White sees a plane he does not expect on his radar.
MAN: (OVER RADIO) What approach on a flight from Fullerton? Cruising altitude is 4,500.
You are right in the middle of a TCA, sir.
66 Romeo.
I suggest in future you look at your TCA chart.
There was an aircraft that was east of the airport which he became involved in.
That was what they called a violator.
NANCE: In many cases, the air traffic that was crawling across his screen, even with transponders, were not reporting altitudes.
Walter White hustles the small plane out of the controlled airspace.
You just had an aircraft pass right off your left above you at 5,000, and we run a lot of jets right through there at 3,500.
But White doesn't realise that there's another plane dangerously off course.
MAN: We should be able to see the ocean by now.
Take a look at the map and look around the 405.
A Piper Cherokee is cutting across the approach to LAX, oblivious to the danger.
The Aeromexico flight is just minutes from landing.
Aeromexico 498, Los Angeles approach.
This can't be! The jet plunges towards Cerritos, a suburban community of Los Angeles.
Aeromexico 498, Los Angeles approach.
I'm sitting there talking with the two departure controllers and not really thinking.
I hear Walter say something like I think I lost one.
Aeromexico 498, Los Angeles approach.
That immediately got everybody's attention.
So I looked at the radars and could hear him calling Aeromexico 498.
The crash devastates the community of Cerritos.
15 people on the ground are killed in the disaster, along with all 64 people on the Aeromexico jet.
The Piper Cherokee is found in a nearby schoolyard.
All three people on the small plane have been killed.
The fact of the matter is the Cherokee flew into the TCA and hit the DC-9 in restricted airspace without a clearance.
The National Transportation Safety Board questions Walter White about what he saw on his radar display.
At any time, did you see the Piper Cherokee on your scope? No.
No, sir.
The Piper's target was not displayed.
It was my belief that it was not on my radar scope.
He was positive that the aircraft was not there for him to see.
But when investigators finally get the air traffic control radar records, they conclude the Piper should have been visible.
We were able to determine that the aircraft that collided with Aeromexico was there to be seen.
Controllers had been complaining about the radars for a long time.
We had reported problems with the radar not picking up targets, several times.
You may lose one target.
You may lose two targets.
It may not be presented for one sweep.
He was looking at one, trying to keep it clear .
and lost track of another one that just happened to be at the same altitude as the approaching Aeromexico jet.
It was a one in a billion chance but that one in a billion came up that particular day.
The collision over Los Angeles drew attention to weaknesses in the radar systems used by air traffic controllers and led to some much needed improvements.
The next generation of air traffic management will only use radar if the GPS system fails.
NextGen is also targeting another weakness in the current system, the radio.
Today, pilots and controllers use radios to talk to one another.
We're now descending to 190 and expecting The system depends on clear, precise language.
Misunderstandings are common and they've caused some of the most tragic air disasters in history.
As the FAA test flight flies high west of Atlantic City, its radio keeps the pilots in touch with controllers.
A100 clear for the But in the air traffic system of the future, pilots and controllers will communicate less frequently.
The controller and the pilot can now work together to resolve issues instead of wasting a lot of time explaining what the issues are.
Mistakes can be made for a number of reasons.
English is the international language of aviation, but pronunciation, accent and emotion alter the way any language is spoken.
You listen on any control frequency, you're gonna hear a lot of people say, "Would you say that again? Say again.
" The airspace above JFK is frequented by one of the most international collections of pilots in the world.
When pressure mounts, small misunderstandings can have enormous consequences.
January 25, 1990.
In the skies over New York AVA 052.
Expect further clearance times in 20 minutes.
I think we need priority.
We are passing out of fuel.
AVA 052.
How long can you? Avianca Flight 52 is trying to land in New York .
but a driving rain is delaying air traffic into and out of the area.
The flight began in Colombia.
On its way to New York, it's been routed through a series of holding patterns by air traffic controllers.
Bad weather is delaying landings all along the north-eastern seaboard.
There was a system moving through the Great Lakes, moving east.
There was a couple of other systems converging and a lot of times, they would converge in the New York area there and the whole north east will go down.
MAN: (OVER RADIO) It's OK if I send four more your way? Casino.
I'm back in the hold again.
Got a full stack.
There's no end in sight.
AVA 052.
And what's your alternate? We said Boston but we can't do it now.
We'll run out of fuel.
The pilots are growing increasingly desperate for clearance to land.
AVA 052 They've used up all of their fuel while waiting their turn.
- What is his speed now? - Er, I'm not sure, to be honest.
Slow him to 180 knots and I'll take him.
After more than an hour in holding patterns, controllers finally give the pilots of the Avianca flight permission to land.
- AVA 052, descend and maintain 3,000.
- Descend and maintain 3,000.
But in this critical hand-off from one controller to another, no-one mentions that the plane is running out of fuel.
Avianca 052 heavy.
Contact Kennedy Tower 119.
Good day.
It was extremely important that Avianca 52 landed on the first approach at JFK.
The voice recorder revealed that the captain was certainly quite concerned about the fuel state.
At JFK, only one runway is being used for landings.
Weather at the airport is making approaches difficult.
Avianca 052 heavy.
Kennedy Tower 22 Left.
You're number three following 727 traffic on a niner mile final.
Four kilometres from runway 22L, and with fuel running dangerously low, the flight hits ferocious winds.
They were getting, like, 60 knots of wind on the nose and then as they descended on down through about 500 feet to the ground they were down to 20 knots.
So that's 40 knot change and 1,000 feet of elevation.
That's a lot.
This is the windshear.
A dramatic change of winds throws the aircraft off its descent path as it makes its approach.
- Glide slope! - RECORDED VOICE: Glide slope.
Glide slope.
Glide slope.
The runway.
Where is it? I don't see it.
I don't see it! The plane is thrown towards the ground by the winds.
(SCREAMING) RON SCHLEEDE: The airplane was about 200 feet above the ground, about two miles from a runway which was well below the glide slope and very dangerous.
So the airplane almost crashed on its first approach.
Give me the landing gear up.
Landing gear up! When you get a missed approach, it changes the whole ball game.
Request another traffic matter.
Executing a missed approach.
Avianca 052 heavy.
The fuel tanks aboard Avianca Flight 52 are all but empty.
Another approach on the airport will be nearly impossible.
Controllers in New York will have to try once more to get Avianca Flight 52 safely to the ground.
That's right.
To 180 on the heading and we'll try once again.
We are running out of fuel! These guys were out and they didn't say, "We're out.
" And he allowed the approach control to vector him way out in the original pattern and 15 miles north to the outer marker again.
Advisor, we have an emergency! Did you tell him? Yes, sir.
I already advised him.
But the first officer neglects to use the word 'emergency' in his radio transmissions to the tower.
He only mentions that his fuel is low.
Avianca 052 heavy.
Contact approach on 118.
Approach Avianca 052 heavy.
SCHLEEDE: It was apparent from the voice recorder transcript and tape that the captain was not understanding the first officer's radio communications that were being made in English.
- (BEEPING) - Flame out! Flame out on engine number four! The engines quit when they're finally starved of fuel.
Flame out on engine number three! Show me the runway.
We just lost two engines and we need priority, please! Avianca 052.
Turn left heading 250 (SCREAMING) (BEEPING) Without engine power, Avianca Flight 52 crashes into a residential neighbourhood on Long Island.
(CRASH!) Avianca 052.
Radar contact lost.
WOMAN: Yes, hello.
I live in Cove Neck in Oyster Bay.
And there is a plane crashed in our yard in front of our house.
(SIRENS WAIL) 85 of the 158 people onboard survive the crash.
Throughout the night, rescue workers pull them from the wreckage.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board arrive within hours.
They remove the cockpit voice recorder from the wreckage.
The condition of the aircraft was really astonishing to see that that much of the structure was left in the condition that it was in.
It hit right on a about a 28-degree embankment and with the wings and all the other trees, it only slid 28 feet so it hit and stopped instantly.
Avianca 052 The NTSB investigation reveals that controllers didn't transmit vital information to one another.
(INDISTINCT RADIO COMMUNICATION) Radio communication, one of the most vital parts of air traffic control, failed the passengers and crew.
Trying to avoid those kinds of mistakes is a key component of NextGen.
Radio communication will largely be replaced by an exchange of electronic data.
Automation is extremely important and in the future, it's going to be able to get rid of the type of errors that occur when you put massive pressure on a human being to be 100% perfect.
(HUBBUB) With the elimination of radio chatter, air traffic control towers of the future will be very quiet places.
(HUBBUB) Controllers on the ground will still be needed to move planes in and out of airports.
But with more accurate information at their disposal and less need to talk to pilots, they'll be able to handle far more flights than they do today.
Onboard the FAA's flight, the new GPS-based technology gets the ultimate test.
Without any warning from air traffic control - You see him yet? - No, I don't see him yet.
- There he goes.
- There he is! .
they notice another plane just 400 feet below.
In the back of the jet, the NextGen system detects the other plane.
Had the system been in the cockpit, it would've shown the pilots its precise location.
Without it, they rely on a piece of technology called TCAS to warn them of the danger.
Using signals transmitted from plane to plane, the Traffic Collision Avoidance System warns pilots when other planes are too close.
TCAS gives the pilot a traffic advisory at 45 seconds before the potential collision.
Then at approximately 25 seconds or so before the potential collision, resolution advisories are given to actually tell the pilots to climb or descend to avoid the altitude of the other aircraft.
And normally air traffic will call that to us but they didn't even call the traffic.
That TCAS helped a lot.
Today the system works perfectly.
The pilots of the test flight see the danger and avoid it.
TCAS can help pilots avoid a collision.
But having it onboard is no guarantee that an accident won't happen.
September 29, 2006.
A small business jet flies high above the Brazilian countryside.
The pilots will fly to Manaus in Brazil before taking off again for New York City.
In the cockpit, copilot Jan Paladino is having trouble maintaining radio contact with air traffic controllers.
November 600 He tries different channels but still no-one responds to his radio calls.
It's unusual for pilots and air traffic controllers to be out of contact for such an extended period of time.
MAN: (OVER RADIO) November 600 X-ray.
Finally, after 12 attempts, Paladino gets through to controllers.
Contact 123 (INDISTINCT) 7265.
Say frequency one more time for November 600 X-ray Lima.
But Paladino can't understand the garbled radio transmission.
Then the signal disappears altogether.
air corridor en route to Manaus.
The traffic along this corridor runs in both directions.
MAN: The airway system between It makes aeroplanes fly northbound maintaining even levels and aeroplanes flying southbound maintaining odd levels.
A little more than two hours into the flight, disaster strikes.
The concussion itself seemed to affect every atom in my body.
The end of the wing was chopped off and it was serrated.
It looked like it had been chewed off.
The Legacy jet has struck an oncoming Boeing 737, Gol Flight 1907.
With 154 people onboard, the Gol flight spirals out of control.
The pilots of the smaller jet don't know what they've hit, but their business jet is still flyable.
Sit down back there.
- I got it.
- Just let me fly the thing, dude.
We're descending, I want to get down.
It's yours, it's yours.
The crew locates a runway at a military base in the middle of the jungle.
November 600 X-ray Lima declaring an emergency.
We need to land at Zero Bravo Charlie Charlie.
- Is that your airport? - MAN: (ON RADIO) Affirmative.
The pilots of the executive jet attempt an emergency landing.
Here we go.
Hold it.
Let's dump the flaps at the top of the flare.
- Right? So give me nine on the flare.
- So you give me nine? SHARKEY: When you land under those sort of circumstances, you're landing faster than you normally would.
You're coming down like gangbusters.
You got it.
Hold it.
You're good.
- Whoo! - (LAUGHS) (LAUGHS) Oh, man.
Good job! Oh, man.
controllers have lost track of Gol Flight 1907.
Manaus, there isn't any Gol.
- I can't see anything here.
- MAN: (ON PHONE) It's on its way.
- So it's already in my area? - For over half an hour.
TRANSLATION: Anxiety was high and controllers were confused about what to say.
They didn't know what was happening.
Troops locate the wreckage of Gol Flight 1907 deep in the Amazon jungle.
There are no survivors.
Investigators learn that the Legacy jet and the Gol flight were flying along the same air corridor in opposite directions.
1,000ft of altitude is supposed to separate them.
Investigators interview the pilots of the business jet.
We were proceeding northwest on course to Manaus at 37,000ft.
OK, we were attempting to contract Did you say you were flying at 37,000ft? Yes, that's right.
Flight level 370.
We never moved from that.
The pilots of the executive jet filed a flight plan in which they would fly at 37,000ft There they would descend to 36,000ft.
The flight plan calls for you to - Why didn't you? - We weren't told to.
Before we took off, we were cleared for 370 all the way to Manaus.
That's what we did, sir.
Air traffic control can always deviate from the flight plan, because they have best knowledge of the actual traffic situation.
We were not told to descend and we did not descend.
TRANSLATION: Once we knew for sure that both planes were flying at the same altitude, we knew there would be a lot to investigate on the side of air traffic control.
Can you call up the Legacy jet screen for me? TRANSLATION: On the radar screen, we see the altitude, speed and the transponder information of each plane.
Images show investigators what air traffic controllers saw on their radar screen before the accident.
One symbol stands out.
The set on the air traffic controller's screen indicates that the aeroplane he's looking at has lost its transponder.
Transponders give controllers exact information on the altitude of the flights they monitor.
Investigators learn that the transponder aboard the Legacy had been turned off.
Possibly due to the captain's inexperience with the new jet.
Still working out the kinks on how to work this flight manual.
Without information coming from the jet's transponder, the air traffic computer displays the altitude the plane is supposed to be at according to the flight plan.
But it's actually flying 1,000ft higher, right in the path of the Gol flight.
The Brazilian controllers did not verify the Legacy jet's real altitude.
Nobody did anything from the ground, which is where we expect it to happen to save these two airplanes from being head-on at the same altitude.
Back over Atlantic City, pilots are preparing to bring their test flight in for a landing.
Today, the flight has to stay within tightly confined boundaries set out by air traffic controllers.
But when all aircraft are equipped with ADS-B, that won't be the case.
If the aircraft could fly on a path that was optimum for them, and optimum for the traffic system, we could use a lot more of the airspace than we do today.
We're going to have airplanes flying directly to where they need to fly and computers keeping them apart.
At the FAA, researchers have been designing systems that get flights from A to B in a whole new way.
Right now, there's no way for controllers to know the exact location of a plane.
That's why flights are confined to preset highways to keep them from colliding.
With GPS-based NextGen, a pilot can follow any route he chooses, provided there aren't any other planes in his path.
He can choose a much more direct route to his destination.
We could have airplanes going in all directions and more efficiently, directly to where they want to go.
We would be able to double, triple, maybe even quadruple the number of aircraft that we could safely handle in the skies at one time.
By charting their own route .
ADS-B will allow pilots to keep a safe distance from other planes without having to stick to a preset highway in the sky.
Maintaining that distance is important, because even the best technology can't keep airplanes apart.
July 2002.
Bashkirian Airlines Flight 2937 cruises westbound through the night sky for Barcelona.
The Tupolev 154M carries 69 people.
Most of the passengers are Russian children travelling on a summer holiday.
Meanwhile, a DHL cargo aircraft travels north towards Brussels.
The two flights are supposed to pass each other over Lake Constance in southern Germany.
MAN: Climb.
Flight level But air traffic controllers have failed to notice that both flights are at the same altitude.
The controller is distracted by another flight.
At a second station, he assists a late arrival.
- What is your present heading? - Present heading is 2,000.
TRANSLATION: It was a standard practice at the ATC company that at night, one air traffic controller was responsible for controlling the entire airspace of ATC.
Aboard the Tupolev, the pilots have spotted an intruder.
Look at that.
And it's closing in fast.
Onboard the DHL cargo plane, the TCAS computer is issuing an urgent warning.
The system is designed to warn pilots of an oncoming flight RECORDED VOICE: Increase.
and what to do to avoid collision.
When the air traffic controller returns to his position, he sees the conflict.
The flights will cross paths in less than a minute.
Descend flight level 350.
I have crossing traffic.
The Russian captain obeys the controller's instruction to descend.
But his TCAS system is telling him to climb.
It says climb.
The Russian crew has 35 seconds to decide whether to obey the air traffic controller or the computer.
Descend level 350.
Expedite descent.
He is guiding us down.
TRANSLATION: We're not accustomed to not trusting controllers.
TRANSLATION: In civil aviation, there were lots of situations when pilots didn't follow instructions of the controller and that led to plane crashes or other accidents.
Expedite descent level.
Under pressure with just seconds to decide, the Russian pilots follow the controller's direction.
At the same time, the DHL jet is also descending.
RECORDED VOICE: Increase descent.
Increase descent.
He is going below us.
Increase climb.
Increase climb.
Where is it? - Climb! - Climb! Descend.
Descend hard.
Bravo Tango Charlie 2937.
Bravo Tango Charlie? Both flights crash near Lake Constance in Germany.
71 people are killed and there are no survivors.
The collision leaves air traffic experts at a critical crossroads.
If I have to summarise the advice that we gave the world, if a warning comes from TCAS, pilots should immediately follow it at all times.
If the Russian pilots had followed the computer's instructions, the accident would not have happened.
With the benefit of hindsight, you always ask yourself, "Could we have done more?" And an accident is a wake-up call for everybody.
The disaster highlighted the potential value of automated systems.
And proved again how fatal human errors can be.
It's an important lesson for the developers of NextGen.
Technology can provide humans with information, but can't control what they do with it.
Before landing.
Over Atlantic City, the FAA jet is on its final approach.
- Runway is clear.
- Bring the flaps to 16.
Its two-hour test flight has brought NextGen one step closer to being installed on commercial airplanes.
Nice job, guys.
Two reversers.
Speed's at 90.
I got you.
When ADS-B is everywhere and the data's being displayed in the cockpit, that will allow the airlines to fly hugely more efficiently.
Over the past 50 years, air traffic control has evolved tremendously.
Human error .
technical difficulties .
and poor communication have taken the lives of hundreds of people .
and uncovered deadly weaknesses in the current system.
Today, those weaknesses are one step closer to being fixed.
MAN: I think the NextGen system as it has evolved now, is really going to be excellent.
It's going to start in the direction that we need to go for the future.
The elements that make up NextGen will be introduced slowly over the next decade.
Piece by piece, a whole new system of air traffic control will take shape in the US and ultimately, around the world.
That's what airplane people do.
They react to the challenge and develop a new way of flying.
If NextGen lives up to its promise, that new way will mean fewer delays and ultimately, fewer accidents.

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