Fly there faster? New satellite coverage promises to revolutionize air traffic control

02/05/2019

The aircraft symbols inch their way across the computer monitor — Air France 378 en route from Paris to Detroit; Delta 85, a Boeing 777 headed to Atlanta; and Lufthansa 412, an Airbus A350 flying Munich to Newark.

At first blush, there’s nothing exceptional about the air traffic control display — except for the piece of airspace it depicts.

These aircraft over the North Atlantic are far beyond the range of ground-based radar. What makes this real-time depiction of oceanic air traffic possible is a new constellation of satellites now orbiting the Earth, giving controllers a window on flights they’ve never had before.

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