Stop-gap legislation enacted in late May enabled the FAA to abandon its budget-trimming plan–prompted by sequestration cuts imposed by Congress–to close the 149 contract air traffic control towers starting on June 15. However, the agency left open the possibility that the towers could be closed when the new fiscal year starts on October 1, which is now just two weeks away.
Avionics and ATC » ATC
News, issues, personnel, equipment and developments about air traffic management.
Airbus and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) Air Traffic Management Bureau signed an agreement to cooperate on modernizing China’s air traffic management (ATM) system with the goal of improving air transport capacity and efficiency. Led by Airbus’s ProSky ATM subsidiary, the ATM initiative accompanies a broader collaboration between Airbus and the CAAC on aviation safety, a five-year extension of which the parties announced last Friday.
General Dynamics C4 Systems’ next-gen UHF and VHF air traffic control radios completed the first phase of the FAA’s factory acceptance testing program. According to the company, the new radios improve sound clarity, making it easier for air traffic controllers and pilots to hear one another. The second phase of testing, scheduled for this fall, will place with 90 of the next-gen radios in FAA facilities in Florida, Oklahoma and New Jersey to validate how the radios perform in the operational environment.
The European Commission released a final report on the integration of civil remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) into European airspace in June. The report’s aim is to achieve initial RPAS airspace integration, beginning with visual line-of-sight operations, in 2016.
Developed by European aviation technical organizations under the collective name ofthe European RPAS Steering Group, the 200-page report covers a wide swath of issues, requirements and plans over its proposed RPAS integration “roadmap,” covering the period 2013 to 2028.
Helicopter Association International president Matt Zuccaro said HAI is evaluating its legal and political options in the wake of a federal court decision upholding the authority of the FAA to mandate the “North Shore Route” for helicopters transiting New York’s Long Island.
After several years of anticipation, the planned earth-girdling network of five global navigation satellite system (GNSS) constellations is taking tangible form in space. Two of them–America’s GPS and Russia’s Glonass–are already fully operational. Glonass reached that goal in 2009, joining the pioneering GPS, which achieved that status in the 1980s.
Rockwell Collins’s planned acquisition of airborne communications provider Arinc positions it to benefit both on the ground and in the air from the increasing “digitization” of airline communications. The future paradigm for ATC calls for replacing voice communications between pilots and controllers with digital data messaging, and Arinc’s ground infrastructure provides one of two major pipes for routing those messages.
South Korea has been subject to annual GPS jamming attacks by its North Korean neighbor since 2010. Over that period, jamming has extended over longer periods, with the longest being a continuous 16-day attack, employing various frequencies, techniques and signal strengths. As the jamming periods increased each year, they affected more and more GPS users. Last year, South Korean officials estimated that 1,016 aircraft lost GPS signals, as did 254 ships and a large number of cellphone towers.
With the continuing strains on the U.S. national budget and the possibility that the Administration’s sequestration program could last for several more years, Pentagon planners are said to be worrying that the costs of the future GPS III system could become out of reach, despite its major advances and the need to have modernized replacement satellites ready to be deployed as the orbital lives of current satellites end.
The FAA’s NextGen ATC modernization program faces long-term technical risks and still uncertain acceptance by airspace users. But after a decade in development, NextGen could be stalled by a nearer-term threat: substantially reduced funding from Congress. In June, the House appropriations committee released transportation funding legislation for Fiscal Year 2014 that would reduce the FAA’s capital funding account, which supports NextGen programs, to its lowest level since 2000.