Consortium to redesign Soviet air traffic system


WASHINGTON -- A consortium of five American and foreign high technology companies will set up offices near Baltimore-Washington International Airport to devise a plan to upgrade the air traffic control systems of the Soviet Union.

The Global Air Transportation Systems and Services group, led by Westinghouse Electric Corp., announced yesterday that it has signed an agreement with Soviet officials to come up with a strategy to improve the Soviet Union's air space system and integrate it with the rest of the world by 2005. The plan is due in September.

If the group succeeds, air travelers to the Soviet Union can expect cheaper airfares, shorter flights, and more convenient flight schedules.

Even more important, however, could be the benefit to the rest of the world's air travelers, which now must be routed around the Soviet Union because most of that country's air space is off limits to commercial flights.

This rerouting can increase flying time and expense by as much as 30 percent in some cases, said Jack Tymann, general manager of Westinghouse's Airspace Management Systems Division in Washington.

Westinghouse brings to the group its expertise in radar systems. It has been a major contractor for the United States' own National Airspace System Plan.

Also participating are AT&T;, which has expertise in communications; IBM, with expertise in computers; Deutsche Aerospace, a subsidiary of the German transportation company Daimler Benz; and C. Itoh and Co., a Japanese firm that will integrate various Japanese technologies.

Representatives of those firms and the Soviet Union announced the formation of the consortium at a press conference in Washington yesterday.

Tymann estimated that it will cost $10 billion to upgrade the Soviet Union's aviation technology and integrate it with the aviation systems of North America, Asia and Europe. By integrating the systems, air traffic controllers on the ground can keep track of airplanes as they cross the airspace of various countries.

In most countries, ground-based radar systems are used to track the aircraft, but in the Soviet Union, satellites will be used to monitor the planes. Much of the technology required to implement the system will be new, Tymann said.

"We'll be developing things the world has never seen," he said.

Tymann said it is too early to tell how much business the companies involved will gain, if any The initial agreement calls for the American, Japanese and German companies to assist the Soviet Union develop the technology to upgrade its air system.

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