Popular Science magazine editors today recognized a NASA airport tower
simulator in the aviation and space category of the magazine’s “Best of
What’s New” contest.

The virtual reality simulator, “FutureFlight Central,” can replicate the
complete operation of an airport from the point of view of the air traffic
control tower. The simulator is helping planners test ways to reduce
airport delays, increase capacity and maintain safety. The facility is
among 100 products and technologies in various categories that are being
honored today during a luncheon and exhibit at the Tavern on the Green
restaurant in New York City’s Central Park.

“Airport planners who use our simulator can test solutions to critical
problems in the safety of a virtual world,” said Nancy Dorighi, manager of
the FutureFlight Central simulator at NASA Ames Research Center located in
California’s Silicon Valley. “FutureFlight Central not only uses modern
computer technology, but also permits controllers, pilots and ground
personnel to perform their jobs during the simulations. That allows those
people to influence decisions that later will affect them on the job,”
Dorighi said.

FutureFlight Central can house as many as a dozen air traffic controllers,
and it can represent the busiest U.S. airport towers in size and
capability. The facility is a walk-in, full-scale, 360-degree simulator
that can realistically test new patterns of ground traffic, new tower
locations and many other airport factors in a realistic, computerized world.

“We can represent any airfield in existence, or as planned for the future,”
Dorighi said. “We can measure the impact of a change on the airport’s
capacity, and let the controllers try it first-hand, all before anything is

In FutureFlight Central, scenes evolve in the same manner that real-world
changes occur. Airplanes come and go, and weather changes. Controllers
use a simulated radio system, radar displays and other familiar tools.

A FutureFlight Central display as well as other winners’ exhibits will be
available to the media as early as 11:00 a.m. EST today at the Tavern on
the Green restaurant. An awards luncheon is slated to follow at noon, with
exhibits on display until 5 p.m.

“This year ‘Best of What’s New’ will also extend beyond our pages to
millions of computer users on the World Wide Web at Popular Science’s site:
www.popsci.com,” said Popular Science editor-in-chief Cecilia Wessner.
“These viewers will crown one of the 100 winners with the Readers’ Choice
Award, to be announced on Jan. 5, 2001.”

More FutureFlight Central information is on the Internet at: