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Why Clever4Hire

Unless you've been following the Wake Turbulence Timer project, you've probably never heard of Clever4Hire.  Allow me to give you some background.

I got involved with Clark Eastman a number of years ago when one of the technicians working on the wake turbulence timers asked what it would cost to purchase a large number of microcontroller development boards I was selling.  That opened the discussion about wake turbulence timers, and the discussion of buying something purpose-built rather than using a general purpose development board to do a task.  Anyway, long story short, Clark finally recognized that I did have something to offer and I wasn't going to be easily discouraged.

The WTT4 and WTT5 Wake Turbulence Timers were the outcome.  They have been installed in ten airports in the Pacific Northwest for a year-long evaluation and they've passed that test with flying colors (no pun intended).  During that test period and since, there have been no failures of any of the Wake Turbulence Timers.  They work every time a button is pressed without fail.  At the end of the year long evaluation, the software was revised to incorporate suggestions from the Air Traffic Controllers to better accommodate their work flow, but the timers worked correctly form day 1.  The last roadblock to nationwide approval and use was recently removed so they may soon be in widespread use.

Two major considerations guided my design approach on the WTTs:  1) What would work best for the controllers to make their job simpler and easier, and 2) Long-term reliability.  The first was attested to recently when someone suggested removing the timers because the evaluation period was over.  I understand the response from the controllers was something like "Over my dead body."  As to the second, the timer design uses purpose-built circuit boards eliminating weak points like pig-tail-wired switches by using circuit-board-mounted sockets instead.  For long term reliability and serviceability, the components used were selected based on their likely long-term availability.  No obscure, difficult to obtain components were used.  The switches, with an estimated mechanical life of a million operations, are the weak point of the timers.  At a busy location, they could wear out in as little as 15 years.  Downtime of equipment the controllers depend on is unacceptable, so the switches are designed for simple replacement; it takes about 5 minutes to replace a switch, no soldering required.

RID System
Clark recognized that the RID systems were obsolete and beyond repair and asked me to work with him on a prototype replacement system.  There are many things that could be added to a RID system, but money is always a concern no matter what people say and Clark's budget to development a prototype didn't stretch very far.  Again, I thought about what could make the controller's job simpler and provide a better system.  I think that led to a unique innovation that does accomplish those goals.  I suspect when a runway is closed for some reason, anyone with some deferred project will use the opportunity to get that project done too.  Instead of one unit on the runway, a controller may have to keep track of 2 or 3.  The key question is whether everyone who went out to the controlled zone has returned from it.

The RID is a memory aid to remember that someone is on the runway.  Extending this memory aid to account for everybody entering and leaving is a logical simple step that simplifies things for the controller and enhances safety.  Plus, it's simple and inexpensive to add to a new RID design.

In short, this is a small example of the innovation I can add to the program.  As you look at other parts of this web page, you'll see that the ideas in the prototype RID Clark and I developed are rapidly coming together to form an exceptional system that offers a lot now and adds room for improvements and upgrades in the future.

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