NASA Simulator Brings Air Traffic Models to Life

A Day in the Life of the National Airspace System

An award-winning NASA simulation tool, Future ATM (Air Traffic Management) Concepts Evaluation Tool, or FACET, for short, is being used to create simulations of air traffic, allowing researchers to create elaborate computerized models of airplane traffic around the United States. With as many as 5,000 airplanes in the air at any one time, the effect, as NASA puts it, is like that of an ant farm in the sky. A video simulation shows normal flight activity, created using historical flight plan information, plus a few other fascinating views.

The chilling part is the re-creation of the traffic on Sept. 11, 2001, when over the course of a few hours, nearly every flight in the United States was grounded. Other views show a profile view of traffic and an airline specific view, as well. And the great thing about FACET is that you don’t need a super computer to create the simulations. A desktop PC will do the job. Cool stuff once again from NASA.