A protest is ongoing by representatives of 15 non-commercial aviation groups against the FAA plans to privatise much of the U.S.’ air traffic control systems.
Plans by the FAA to set up an agency run outside the government have already been proposed and are expected to be debated in Congress in the first quarter of this year.
Despite claims that privatisation in Canada and Europe has proved successful, the aviation community is airing concerns over fee issues and are pleading with lawmakers to carefully assess the benefits of a new system under ‘foreign’ control.
Doubts about the viability of a new air traffic control system purchased three years ago to replace the outdated system at Hong Kong’s International Airport has led to criticism from the country’s lawmakers.
Safety, management, infrastructure and administrative issues must be resolved if the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department wish to be taken seriously. A series of mistakes have been made that are adding up financially, particularly the HK$575 million air traffic control system, which cannot be implemented due to the failure of safety tests.
As a modern international airport, and a hub for the region, the issues are a source of embarrassment for the government.
Italian ANSP, ENAV, has formed an agreement with SITA OnAir for the provision of VHF communications equipment in 19 Italian airports, including Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport Fiumicino.
This will allow airlines equipped with the technology, using Italy’s airspace, to access CPDLC via provision from ENAV.
CPDLC forms part of the NextGen SESAR initiative, enabling airline pilots and ATC to communicate using text, which improves the quality of operational communications, the safety of aircraft and the ATC management efficiency.
A comparison of the proposed plans to reform the US ATC system has been conducted by the Department of Transportation Offices of the Inspector General (DOT OIG) and a new report has been issued highlighting the impact these are likely to have on the NextGen modernisation program.
A reform of the ATS structure in the US, due to the size and complex nature of its airspace – which is up to 2.5 times the size of that in the UK – could make the implementation of NextGen initiatives difficult.
Comparisons were made with the UK, Canada, Germany and France and the US has more GA aircraft in operation than all four of these countries combined. The creation of an independent ANSP, a part of the reform plans, could cause further, potentially catastrophic delays to the NextGen program.
Other countries, such as Canada, will be using a multi-phase process for the implementation of Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC), but the US will be looking at a full-scale modernisation, developing new technology and not modifying current products, which other countries and ANSPs will do, forming partnerships and using private companies to meet their requirements.
CPDLC will revolutionise current aviation ATC, centralising these vital processes as the world’s air traffic increases. The NextGen initiative is designed to make ATC more efficient and will open up new tracks to further increase this efficiency.
Congress and the aviation industry in the US are in talks to find a solution.
Inmarsat, the British satellite company that suggested the new search area for flight MH370, has offered its current customers free basic aircraft tracking in light of the tragedy.
Inmarsat have 11,000 commercial passenger aircraft amongst its customers, equipped with their satellite technology and have made their offer as an immediate address to the subject of aircraft tracking that has graced many boardroom tables since the aircraft was reported missing.
“This offer responsibly, quickly and at little or no cost to the industry, addresses in part the problem brought to light by the recent tragic events around MH370,” said Inmarsat CEO, Rupert Pearce.
In addition, Inmarsat have discussed the provision of an ‘in-cloud black box’ system that would be capable of streaming historic and real-time flight data, including cockpit voice recording. The ICAO will be taking these discussions further during the meeting in Montreal this week to discuss the technological requirements for the provision of the necessary equipment to ensure that the tragic events of MH370 are not repeated.
A set of standards are expected to be released following these talks, which will be attended by more than 40 representatives of all areas of aviation, airports, ATS and airlines.
Airservices, Australia’s air navigation service agency and the Dept of Defence have put out a request for tender for the creation of an aligned Air Traffic Management platform that is intended to harmonise the ATM & CPDLC requirements of both civil and defence movements.
The organisations want the new system to increase co-operation and reduce overlapping, improve communications via CPDLC and to streamline processes and equipment including training and subsequent expertise that can be shared across the workforce.
Airservices CEO, Margaret Staib said, “Through more flexible use of airspace, it will enable better management and prioritisation of an increasingly complex traffic mix. In an environment of projected growth, it will also allow us to connect the Australian aviation industry to deliver world-best industry performance.”
The aim is to bring Australian aviation airspace into a unified state, rather than accepting the limitations of separately managed volumes. A shared and harmonised airspace, including CPDLC and air traffic management solutions will increase safety aspects and operational efficiency across the board in the increasingly complex range of traffic.
Air Marshal Brown, Chief of the Air Force said, “The streamlining of equipment and processes will bring with it shared expertise and facilities, creating economies of scale whilst delivering greater flexibility meeting the needs of airspace users.”
SunExpress, a joint venture between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines plan to completely revamp its entire fleet of Boeing 737 with the Rockwell Collins Link 2000+ starting later this year.
The retrofitting will allow for compliance with Eurocontrol’s new CPDLC mandate that states that by 2015, all flights operating above 28,000 feet in European airspace must have CPDLC capability. The mandate is currently under review for private aircraft, but will move forward in improving air traffic management and capacity throughout Europe under the supervision of Eurocontrol.
Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) is clearly the future of cockpit efficiency, reducing the workload for pilots and allowing for greater air traffic management as the skies grow busier and traditional voice radio communications in congested airwaves makes controller-pilot communication more difficult.
CPDLC providers are preparing for the ultimate changeover and many, such as ARINC, offer an advisory service to airlines concerned with refitting or retrofitting aircraft with a range of solutions, enabling them to be CPDLC ready when the time comes.