Boeing, Lockheed join to study U.S. air traffic

WASHINGTON - Aircraft manufacturer The Boeing Co. and high-tech military contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. on Monday said they hope to work together to advance the nation's air traffic control system.

The companies said they want to help the Federal Aviation Administration create a next-generation air transportation system to handle the nation's rapidly expanding air traffic. The collaboration will combine Lockheed's air traffic management experience with Boeing's strengths in aircraft systems, avionics, aviation operations, and airspace simulation and modeling.

The new system will be designed to reduce runway mix-ups and increase the number of aircraft that can safely be in the air at the same time, the companies said, adding that the aviation industry is forecasting U.S. air traffic to expand three-fold by 2025.

The two companies will initially focus on creating and demonstrating an information sharing network, expanding current trials of advanced operational concepts, and collaborating with the FAA on initiatives to ensure seamless operations between the U.S. and foreign airspace.

The government has yet to announce a formal contract for a new air traffic control system. However, both companies are awaiting a decision by the FAA's multiagency partnership called the Joint Planning and Development Office on whether it will use a team of private companies or the agency itself to oversee the modernization effort.

The office is expected to make a decision by this summer. Boeing anticipates it will prefer that various companies head separate programs, Boeing vice president Kevin Brown said Monday.

Shares of Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed fell 1 cent to $96.76 in aftermarket trading, after dropping 50 cents to finish at $96.77 on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of Chicago-based Boeing dropped 17 cents in aftermarket trading to $85.43, after slipping $3.03, or 3.4 percent, to finish at $85.60.