WASHINGTON -- An international corporate team headed by Westinghouse Electric Co. announced plans yesterday for a major upgrading of the Soviet Union's commercial air traffic management system.
The project, which one Westinghouse executive estimated could cost $10 billion, is not expected to be completed until the year 2005.
The corporate consortium is now engaged in a six-month study to develop a master plan for the modernization. It is also working out possi
ble financial arrangements and ways to integrate the system's components with other Soviet equipment.
In addition to the Electronic Systems Group of Westinghouse, which is based at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, other partners in the joint venture include: American Telephone and Telegraph; International Business Machines; Deutsche Aerospace, of Germany; and Itoh, a Japanese company.
These companies, combined with an arm of the Soviet Union's Ministry of Civil Aviation, form a group called the Global Air Transportation Systems and Services, or GATSS. Its headquarters will in Linthicum, not far from Westinghouse's Linthicum complex.
Jack Tymann, general manager of Westinghouse Airspace Management Systems Division, and the spokesman for GATSS, told a news conference yesterday that the implementation of the system could open vast regions of Soviet airspace to commercial traffic, resulting in reduced flying time and significant fuel savings.
By flying over the Soviet Union, as opposed to the current Mediterranean route, Mr. Tymann said a flight from New York to Tokyo would be about 30 percent shorter. He said this would likely result in a 30 percent cut in the cost of a ticket, from about $1,000 to $700.
The Soviet Union, like most other countries, would collect a fee from all carriers traveling through Soviet airspace and use it to help pay for the modernized air traffic systems, said Tatiana Anodina, a representative of the Soviet Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Ms. Anodina said the demand for flight over Soviet territory is 10 times greater than current tracking systems can handle.
In answer to a question about the political instability within the Soviet Union and its possible impact on the venture, Mr. Tymann said that all
the Soviet republics support improvement of the air traffic system.
"There is no promise that we will ever build anything," Mr. Tymann said after the news conference at the National Press Club. "Businesses," he said, "make investments because they hope someday to have a return."
As an indication of some of the technology involved in the proposed project, Mr. Tymann said that Soviet communications satellite systems will need to communicate with those of the United States and other countries so that tracking equipment can follow a plane as the aircraft travels through international air zones.
"We will be developing things the world has never seen before," Mr. Tymann added.
In addition to possibly supplying aircraft radar systems to the project, Westinghouse is to serve as the program integrator that combines computer systems and other equipment into one operating system.
Mr. Tymann said that about 60 people, five from each company plus a delegation from the Soviet Union, will be working on the project at the Linthicum office.
Edward Silcott, general manager of the Westinghouse Commercial Systems Group, said the project could be broadened into other areas, including major improvement of regional airports throughout the Soviet Union to handle increased tourist trade.
The plan may also include the construction of more hotels and motels to handle tourists. The Soviets are looking at tourism as a source of convertible currency for its international business interests.