Honeywell Pushes Technology as China Awaits ATM Reform

 - December 3, 2012, 12:45 PM
With new leadership in place in China, airlines are eagerly anticipating long-term reform of the rules governing access to the country’s airspace. Carriers such as Shenzhen Airines are already poised to benefit from technology-driven progress such as Honeywell’s ground-based augmentation system. (Photo: Airbus)

Like many companies with high hopes for air transport growth in China, Honeywell Aerospace is counting on the country’s new leadership to step up a long-anticipated set of reforms, including moves to get the Chinese military to open vast chunks of airspace.

But the aerospace company isn’t holding its breath, and is continuing to contribute to efforts to implement technological solutions to improving the vast country’s air traffic management (ATM) infrastructure. “I don’t think the problems in China are really that different from the [ATM] problems in the rest of the world, but we may have to solve the problems differently in China,” Brian Davis, vice president of Honeywell’s Asia Pacific air transport division, told AIN at last month’s Airshow China in Zhuhai.

The U.S. company has located its Asia-Pacific aerospace headquarters in Shanghai, where it now has about 700 local employees contributing to the research, development and engineering effort. It also has an ATM laboratory in Beijing in partnership with China’s Avic.

“One of the problems is integrating low-altitude airspace with upper airspace so that we can [eliminate] conflict [between] airline traffic and general aviation traffic,” Davis explained. “At the same time, [we are] integrating airways, approaches and landings, for example using the Honeywell Gbas [ground-based augmentation system] all the way down to touchdown.” Half of some 50 new airports now planned in China are slated to get Gbas. Another Honeywell solution being offered for China is the company’s advanced taxi control guidance system. “This provides safety, efficiency and fuel savings, and can also reduce controller workload so that they can pay attention to other critical issues,” said Davis.

But is all of this progress coinciding with a slowing in China’s hitherto rampant economic growth, putting the brakes on the country’s air transport boom? “We don’t see a slowdown; it is moving along well, with a little drop for international flights that is happening in the rest of the world,” said Honeywell Asia-Pacific president Briand Greer. “Load factors are in the 80s [percent] and, anecdotally, every flight I’m on is full. There is not a demand problem. But many of the [Chinese] airlines have seen their margins cut by 50 percent this year, and that is mainly down to the cost of fuel.”