new air traffic control tower research facility dedicated to countering potential air and runway traffic problems at commercial airports is advancing the state- of-the-art in aviation research at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center. FutureFlight Central (FFC), is a unique real-time simulator designed to safely study new technologies, airport design changes or redesigns, and procedural changes in a virtual reality setting. The facility consists of a full-scale control tower, which depicts a 360-degree view of the airport under various weather conditions and times of day. Actual air traffic controllers operate the tower and communicate with pilots, ramp controllers and vehicle operators. "Humans-in-the-loop" provide a key distinction between conventional fast time simulation and what NASA has created in FFC. Human factors such as situational awareness, reaction time, visual perception and oral communication validate new designs and tools at a significantly higher level of accuracy and confidence. Recent integration of the tower with full- mission flight simulation allows assessment of airport changes from both the controller and pilot perspectives. With this new capability, technology developers, airport planners, and airline representatives are able to make more informed decisions. This paper describes the capabilities of FutureFlight Central, provides examples of typical projects, and addresses future applications.
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