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Wild blue yonder: Lockheed aviation services include teletraining, modem flight-plan assurance, and microwave-radio backup.


Lockheed's Articial Intelligence (AI) Center is discovering teletraining.

Traditionally, students come to the center, in Menlo Park, Calif., for one- or two -week courses. Travel and living expenses limited how many people companies sent.

In 1988, an audio bridge and data link succeeded in delivering instruction to eight students at Sanders Assocites. Nashua, Nashua, N.H. Software allowed computer demos of concepts, interactive-programming exerciseS, and supervised lab work. On the basis of his success, the AI Center decided to expand the distance-learning program.

The center has three training tracks:

* Six-month residency. This, obviously, must take place in Menlo Park.

* Management education. This track can be implemented at other Lockheed facilities as well as Menlo Park. This might appear cost-effective--but a one-day seminar in Florida requires a three-day absence from the center for key Lockheed personnel.

* Continuing education. These classes are largely conducted in Menlo Park by AI Center researchers. This keeps researchers available--but many remote-site organizations can't afford to send all the people they would like.

Of the three tracks, the last two will eventually be supplemented by teletraining.

Interactive Demos

The New Hampshire experiment adapted a course normally taught over two weeks in menlo Park. It was presented in two-hour lectures twice a week for four weeks. Lab assignments were met outside class time. Every student had four weeks after the last class to develop an expert system prototype.

Two days a week, the instructor was available during regularly scheduled times for long-distance phone consultation with students. Electronic mail also linked students and teachers.

Teletraining equipment included a phone-line audio link which, with the voice-teleconferencing system, let students hear the intructor for the lecture-discussions; and an interactive data link that let the teacher project hi Vax screen to student workstations in New Hampshire. The instructor could also call up a student's screen on his console.

The instructor could do interactive computer demos of concepts and interactive-programming exercises.

Students interacted with the instructor through a single microphone, allowing on voice at a time. This eliminated multiple transmissions, which would have been unintelligible, but limited free-wheeling discussion.

As on-site proctor made sure instruction and communication procedures ran smoothly. He distributed student handouts, monitored the class sessions, projected instructor-provided viewfoils, and collected laboratory exercises and evaluations.

No Learning loss

The result was that students learned the same as with in-person training.

Cost savings led the AI Center to set up a long-distance training program and buy a more advanced system.

Shure Teleconferencing Equipment facilities communications between sites and allows multiple transmissions from the remote classroom. Optel softaware lets the instructor display a prepared sequence o images and graphics as well as ad hoc material during the presentation.

Digitizer tablets allow annotation of the displayed graphics; for clarity, students and instructors have different-color pens. RGB cameras allow transmissions from both teacher and student sites.

The AI Center recently selected a second course for teletraining. Its plans include implementation of a complete distance-learning program.

The center will use five new teleconferencing facilities at key locations thoughtout the country, including a Lockheed facility in Sunnyvale, Calif., to allow point-to-point contact with any of the other four.

An alternate method of offsite training--computer-base instruction--is also under careful study.

Private pilots across the U.S. soon will access weather reports and file flight plan via PCs and nationally networked mdoem system.

Direct User Access Terminal (DUAT) service will run toll free, 24 hours a day.

"The implementation of DUAT i a positive step for the FAA," says Mark Van Time, a pilot himself and data-center manager for one of the three contractors, Jeppsen DataPlan (formerly Lockheed DataPlan), Los Gatos, Calif.

DUAT will give pilots a hands-on alternative for acquiring mandatory preflight weather briefings as well as filing, amending, and canceling flight plans.

As it is, now, the have to call a flight service station (FSS) and wait to speak to a human briefer.

The Federal Aviation Administration's modernization program is making access easier and faster while reducting the national total to less than 75 stations.

At low cost, DUAT fosters aviation safety by improving the responsiveness and efficiency of flight briefings.

By redirecting the responsbility of flight services to private contractors, the FAA satisfies increasing demand for such services while maintaining desired staffing levels.

System Long Due

Pilots have long needed a way to more efficiently file flight plans and get weather briefings via computer.

IFR (Instrument Flight Rating) pilots must file flight plans designating routes and estimated departure and arrival times. Pilots flying VFR (Visual Flight Rating), though not bound to file plans, are strongly encouraged to do so. Among other things, filing one tells a search-and-rescue team where to start looking if something bad happens.

Three private companies are contrated by the FAA to provide the DUAT service.

Each has a large computer network that can interact with the 600,000 authorized pilots. Each provides a networked modem system, host computer, customer service, and operation support.

"DUAT augments the FSS system, giving pilots with computers an electronic alternative to verbal briefing over the phone," says Van Tine. "When you call an FSS briefer, you have to take quick and concise notes. The briefer's not there to engange in two-way conversation. But with DUAT, flight plans and weather briefs can be dumped directly to the printer. Pilots can now take a hard copy of the same data an FSS briefer gives over the phone."

Jeppesen DataPlan gives pilots (free) DOS-based software. DUAT-Link includes a communications package, tutorial, and rivers required to access the company's value-added black-and-white and full-color weather maps.

Jeppesen also provides flight planning, weather interpretation, and other aviation tools in the DUAT value added-service network.

Pulbic Network Access

Three public data networks can be used to access the DUAT service: Tymnet, Compuserve networkM and Sprint 800 service.

Any PC or terminals along with a 300-, 1200-, or 24000-b/s modem can accept text files.

The first time DUAT is used, a pilot enters his name and pilot certificates number. The system then provides an access code and asks him to choose a password. All subsequent transactions require the code and password to log on.

After logging on, he has 20 minutes to complete a weather briefing and flight-plan filing transaction. If more time is required, he can start another session. On average, the first few sessions take about 15 minutes, then taper to seven as the pilot becomes more proficient.

DUAT weather data and warnings to airmen come directly from the FAA Weather Message Switching Center in Kansas City.

"Users are interested in reliability when they dial into the system," Van Tine says. "We have very stringent up-time requirements designated by the FAA. We have to maintain 99.5% to 99.7% system availability. It's extremely important that we have reliable hardware. To handle the response, we're using the NEC I-Series E, a bank of 120 NEC I2432E modems (60 cards or 120 modems total) connected to an 800 number from US Sprint. Users dial in from all over the 48 states."

Upgrade Via Chassis

The NEC I-Series E system--an intelligent central-site system (from NEC America) which gives datacomm managers network-status monitoring and network-wide control over operation and diagnostics--is upgraded for faster rates, such as 9600 b/s, by sliding a new modem card into the chassis slot.

The rack lets Van Tine's people intermix dial, leased-line, and DDS products in a single chassis.

"One of the key features," Van Tine says, "is it allows us to configure one modem and copy that configuration throughout all our modems in the network. We have 120 modems; to reconfigure each would take five minutes each. Most other systems we looked at force you to do that."

Without special software, Van Tine can control his modems from a terminal via the onboard controller. He says competing systems required the purchase of a separate PC.

The I-Series E's I9632 V.32 modem is compatible with all standard full-duplex modems.

The design allows a single port to provide communications needs from 300 to 19,200 b/s. High density is achieved by designing two modems into a single rackmount card.

"We can buy additional racks and then mix and match different kinds of dial, DDS, and leased-line modems and still retain the same capabilities without having to retrain people on how to reconfigure and troubleshoot. We're looking at having racks out in the field too," Van Tine says.

Jeppesen DataPlan had a scare during the Oct. 17, 1989, earthquake. Los Gatos was hard hit.

Jeppesen truly "lives and dies by the telephone"; all its services to the aviation industry run over phone lines.

Microwave backup helped.

Telco-independent Bay Area Teleport, based in Alameda, serves such needs via microwave radio and fiber optics. To facilitate, DUAT, BAT provides an alternative access link to Jeppesen DataPlan's long-distance carrier.

On Oct. 17, DUAT was not yet officially operational, but the data and customer-service lines were receiving calls. During damage assessment, Jeppesen DataPlan could tell DUAT was still on line.

Incoming calls began almost immediately, first to the data line and then to the customer-service line.

Users were calling to see if the service had weathered the storm.

Most expressed surprise that the network was up, though power outages at several sites had prompted the switch to battery backup and generator power.

"The microwave tower had to have shaken pretty hard," says Van Tine, "but it didn't go far enough out of sync even to alarm. The FAA has a stringent window for outages. If we exceed it, they have the option of turning us off and cancelling the contract."

Jeppesen DataPlan contracts for service with the FAA, but they compete with two other companies for market share of the business.

"When we go down, it sends the users to the other two vendors. That in itself is worth a lot of dollars."

Jeppesen DataPlan's system consists of two 18-GHz 45-Mb radio hops, one from the customer's premises to BAT's POP (point of presence) and one from BAT's POP to the carrier location. M1:3 muxing is provided at each site for DS1 capabilities. At customer premises, channel banks were installed.

Special attention was given to antenna-tower construction. City requirements called for low profile, but every consideration had to be given to system performance. Jeppesen DataPlan was assured the tower was strong enough to support the antenna in extreme conditions, including strong winds.
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Publication:Communications News
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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