Although the FAA needs to hire 11,800 new controllers through Fiscal Year 2015 to replace retirees and other vacancies, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) noted the agency’s own FAA Administrator’s Fact Book (a quarterly publication) reports that the overall total number of controllers dropped from 14,227 at the end of FY2005 to 14,206 in FY2006.
Avionics and ATC » ATC
News, issues, personnel, equipment and developments about air traffic management.
The FAA’s Alaska Region this year will assess the suitability of a communications satellite system with an unusual history to supplement its Capstone automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) project.
When the idea was initially being explored a number of years ago, FAA planners saw a use for automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) only in Alaska, where the technology would allow aircraft operating beyond the reach of radar to develop their own position data using onboard GPS equipment, and then transmit that data to others in the region through either a microwave satellite uplink and downlink or ground-based VHF network.
“The job of a controller is no longer just separating airplanes,” National Air Traffic Controllers Association president John Carr told attendees at a symposium on “Post 9/11 Security Impacts on Air Traffic Control and Aviation” in Washington, D.C., in late January. “They have to be aware of possibilities that we did not even contemplate on the morning of September 10.”
Europe’s ambitious program to introduce mode-S surveillance datalink technology has once again been rescheduled to account for operational and technical difficulties. On January 13, Eurocontrol announced a “rationalization” of the implementation timetable for mode-S elementary (ELS, known in North America as “upgraded mode-S”) and enhanced (EHS) surveillance for IFR flights in general air traffic (IFR/GAT).
Members of the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS), the labor union that represents more than 2,700 FAA employees who staff the agency’s automated flight service stations (AFSS), are joining with information technology contractor Harris Corp. in a bid to keep their jobs from being outsourced to a private company.
Flight delays resulting from ATC problems fell to their lowest level in a decade last year, said Eurocontrol. The average delay caused by ATC issues decreased by 20 percent to 1.7 minutes per flight. During 2003, about 9.5 percent of all flights were subject to delays, down from 11 percent in 2002.
Smaller aircraft–specifically regional jets–are often blamed for delays in the National Airspace System, said Mesa Air Group chairman and CEO Jonathan Ornstein, in a recent speech at the Washington Aero Club, but he argues that “playing the blame game” takes focus off the need to expand airport capacity and continue to modernize the ATC system.
Enhanced weather data and flight planning tools are now available for Canada under the Flight Operations link at www.navcanada.ca. New online services include flight plan filing, notam access and aviation weather interpretation manuals. Calling Patwas at (866) WXBRIEF now features voice recognition capabilities, local sunrise/sunset hours and fax-back function.
In a rare decision, a federal judge in Jacksonville, Fla., ruled last month that the FAA was more responsible for a fatal accident than the pilot. All four people on board a Piper Cherokee Six were killed on Dec. 12, 2001, when the piston single crashed in heavy fog.