Optelecom edges toward big time Md. company hopes air traffic contract becomes springboard


A small Gaithersburg company has captured a $3 million contract from Raytheon Services Inc. to help improve air traffic control technology at American airports.

The contract is small and spread out over a nine-year period, but Optelecom Inc. said yesterday that it hopes the contract will establish the company as a source for air traffic control equipment.

Last month, Raytheon won a $1 billion Federal Aviation Administration contract to improve the decades-old computer systems that air traffic controllers use to monitor airspace within a 50-mile radius of airports.

Raytheon beat out Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda for the program, called STARS.

As part of the upgrade, the copper wire that runs between airport computers and the monitors in the control towers will be replaced with fiber optic cable to provide more reliable and better quality images.

Optelecom will supply the equipment that translates the electronic signals to fiber optic signals.

"Bringing on board the expertise of Optelecom Inc. further solidifies Raytheon's commitment to provide on-time delivery of STARS to the FAA," said Blanche Necessary, manager of communications at Raytheon's Washington operations.

"The significance of this award is that it has a very long lifetime; in any given year, it is not particularly large, but you would anticipate other opportunities that would develop from it," said Edmund Ludwig, president and chief executive officer of Optelecom.

Optelecom provided similar equipment as a subcontractor for Siemens U.K. at the airport in Vienna, Austria.

The Raytheon contract will improve the air traffic control equipment at 172 civilian and 199 military airports.

Optelecom, which had revenues of $8.9 million last year, employs 68 people.

Pub Date: 10/09/97

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