CNS/ATM environment too dependent on GPS

 - November 28, 2007, 5:44 AM

Former FAA Administrator Langhorne Bond voiced concerns about the “notorious” doctrine of sole-means GPS dependency before international attendees at the U.S. Air Traffic Control Association’s summer meeting in Dublin, Ireland, in late July.
Bond, an outspoken critic of the FAA’s apparent lack of interest or policy toward providing redundant aviation systems backup over the long term, pointed out that the three elements of ATC–communications, navigation and surveillance–should be independent of each other, so that “a failure of one would not bring down the others.”

But this is no longer the case, he stated, since all three will be GPS dependent (both FAA’s Nexcom VHF and ADS-B surveillance transponders will require GPS to function), which means that “a well coordinated terrorist attack on GPS in the U.S., and indeed in most countries of the world, can collapse most or all of the entire ATC system.”

Bond contends that the Department of Transportation (DOT) is essentially ignoring the findings of the 1998 Presidential Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection (PCCIP) and the 2001 Rumsfeld Commission on space policy, both of which warned of GPS’ vulnerability to interference or attack. “It is time,” said Bond, “for the Bush Administration to restate the oldest law of aviation safety–every system must fail safely.”

He also referred to the mystery surrounding a report on GPS’ vulnerability and corresponding mitigation measures that the PCCIP requested from the DOT. Prepared by the DOT’s Volpe Technical Center in 1999, and intended for public release, the report has never seen the light of day.

According to Bond, “The DOT is hiding it. The DOT and FAA do not want this study to be seen by the [public].”

FAA insiders told AIN strong opinions for and against the public release of the full report exist within the agency, with the expected outcome being the release of a watered-down version this fall.