Two Significant Events for NextGen’s ATC System of the Future
On June 21 in Alexandria, VA the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) issued a report, Benefits Analysis of Space-Based ADS-B, which investigates the 20 year safety merits of the space-based automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) networks. On June 24, US DoT Secretary Foxx and NASA Administrator Bolden held a joint press conference at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, to announce new airspace technology demonstration (ATD-2) laboratory.
Flight Safety Foundation
The FSF report is a 38 page long overview of the benefits of ADS-B in the context of the safety challenges of managing predicted air traffic growth in commercial air transport over the next 20 years. The outline of its analysis shows the scope and depth of the Foundation’s work:
- The Aviation Economic Environment
- History of Air Traffic Control and Global Safety Regulation
- Other Comparable Surveillance Technologies
- ADS-B: Its Use and Future
- Benefits of Space-Based ADS
- Immediate benefits
- A single global surveillance system
- Reduced oceanic separation standards
- Enhanced Situational Awareness
- Enhanced global flight tracking 21 Enhanced Search and Rescue
- Reduction in ATC and pilot workload
- Improved cross–flight information boundary error detection
- Improved and earlier detection of off-track errors
- Enhanced safety alerting
- Improved weather avoidance
- Enhanced Height Monitoring in RVSM airspace
- Increased surveillance system augmentation and elimination of surveillance gaps
- Enhanced safety for offshore helicopter operations
- Reduced reliance on legacy infrastructure
- More efficient flight trajectory
- Availability of preferred altitudes
- Route efficiency
- Speed management
- Increased system integrity
- Enhanced incident and accident investigations
- Reduced emissions and fuel burn
- Reduced oceanic separation standards
- Mid-Term Benefits
- Jumping a generation of surveillance technology and improving service in remote and difficult-terrain regions
- Facilitating improved cooperation in contingency management
- Greater interoperability (an ICAO harmonization enabler)
- Enabler for more regional and local data sharing
- Support for conflict zone and volcanic ash cloud management
- Reduced risk of controlled flight into terrain
- Improved services to VFR aircraft
- Longer-term benefits
- Enabler for global safety performance monitoring and analysis
- Enhanced global air traffic flow management
- Supporting unmanned aircraft systems /remotely piloted aircraft systems
- Future capacity enabler
- Enhancing airport terminal airspace operations
- Enhancing airport ground handling
- Pathway to air-to-air ADS-B In
- Challenging existing CNS and FANS requirements
- Driving safety through innovation
- Downstream economic and social benefits
- Space-based ADS-B: Success factor challenges
- Space-based ADS-B integrity
- ADS-B equipage rates
- Quality of signal and impact of antennae location on the aircraft
- Adoption by ANSPs
A cross-section of industry representatives has been interviewed. Interviews have been conducted with representatives of commercial passenger transport airlines, commercial cargo transport operators, regulators, aircraft manufacturers, air navigation service providers, offshore helicopter operators, aviation business analysts and the space-based ADS-B service provider.
Using the above outline, one can examine the details of each subject. In that FSF is an independent, impartial technical expert, great credence should be given to its conclusion:
There are a number of regulatory safety performance and certification processes that must be completed; however, the range of ADS-B mandates that must be complied with over the next 5-6 years should stimulate both equipage uptake and regulatory processes to manage the various risks identified.
For the skeptics this opinion of FSF should provide some confidence; however, much of the criticism of the ADS-B system has been directed to its cost/benefit. That assessment was beyond this study.
US DoT & NASA
The second NextGen event involved Secretary Anthony Foxx and Administrator Charles Bolden along with representatives of the FAA (but not the Administrator?), National Air Traffic Controllers Association and American Airlines. As opposed to a review of the FSF abstract engineering capabilities of ADS-B, this project will use the ATC operations at CLT as a real world laboratory.
The ATD-2 project is part of the FAA’s efforts to create the air transportation system of the future, NextGen. Once fully integrated, this advanced ATC navigation, communications and management system will provide coordinated schedules between the ramp, tower, terminal, and center control facilities, giving air traffic managers the tools to make better decisions about how to reduce congestion. ATD-2 will reduce or eliminate surface congestion by combining surface metering with en route flight metering. Metering creates a time slot for specific fixed points along an aircraft’s route. Air traffic controllers use speed advisories or vectors to direct an aircraft to arrive at a fixed point at an assigned time.
The five-year pilot project in Charlotte, N.C., will attempt to streamline the arrival and departure of aircraft while enhancing operations to bolster safety.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the U.S. with almost 45 million passengers flying through it annually. The airport is the second busiest hub for American Airlines, which operates about 90 percent of the airport’s approximately 700 daily flights. Testing ATD-2 at the Charlotte airport will demonstrate how the system can help balance air traffic at smaller and larger airports with intersecting air traffic routes.
“Today is a great moment for the city of Charlotte, for air travelers, and our environment,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, a former Charlotte mayor. “As a son of this city and this state with its special history with modern flight, I’m thrilled that Charlotte Douglas International Airport is at the forefront of this innovative partnership between DOT and NASA that will have a transformative and lasting impact on aviation.”