Washington Report: FAA Helps Cast a Wider WAAS Net

 - October 4, 2007, 7:24 AM

For the first couple of months this year, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey has been the most peripatetic agency head in recent years, making extended trips to the Far East and most recently to South America.

Blakey’s first stop was in Santiago, Chile, where she met with Chilean and Latin American aviation leaders and helped open the International Air and Space Fair (FIDAE). The largest airshow in the region, FIDAE brings together parliamentary and diplomatic officials, aviation industry representatives and civilian and military authorities from around the world.

At FIDAE, Blakey met with Gen. Enrique Rosende, director general of the Chilean Directorate of Civil Aeronautics, to discuss satellite navigation issues as well as new technologies and procedures to improve air traffic efficiency, including RVSM. She also participated in a “Wings of Change” conference panel that included Dr. Assad Kotaite, president of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and Giovanni Bisignani, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

In a speech before the panel, Blakey explained that the Caribbean and South American Regional Planning and Implementation Group has established a test-bed project for the implementation of WAAS. Almost all South American states are participating, she said, and the FAA is providing expertise and equipment whenever possible to ensure its success.

Also, Brazil and Chile are teaming with the FAA and others to find solutions to the ionosphere problem around the equator. “As you know, satellite signals must meet the most stringent standards for us to realize the safety and efficiency benefits of GPS and WAAS,” Blakey told the group. “Through our partnership, we know we’ll find a solution that could, in fact, be shared around the world.”

Blakey also announced that the FAA is linking its Enhanced Traffic Management System with Chile, and hopes to add Brazil, Colombia and the Central American Corporation for Air Services in the near future. “This technology allows us to exchange traffic information across borders,” she said. “We hope more states will join in this effort, because we know it’s a vital tool to enhance efficiency in our hemisphere.”

While at FIDAE, Blakey also participated in the first Chilean flight using RNP and Rnav, conducted by American Airlines and IATA at the Santiago International Airport. She told the “Wings of Change” panel that such GPS-based technology provides safety and efficiency benefits that are without question, and added that Alaska Airlines estimates it saves $3 million a year using RNP. “I have had the privilege of flying an RNP approach in Alaska,” she said. “Controllers and pilots agree–RNP works there, and it will work throughout Latin America.”

From Chile, Blakey traveled to Brazil, where she and Brazilian Aeronautical Commander Brigadier Luiz Carlos da Silva Bueno signed the first Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement in Latin America. It includes a bilateral aircraft certification agreement to avoid duplication of efforts and thus reduce certification costs, and a memorandum of understanding for the FAA to provide technical assistance to Brazil.
During her weeklong visit, she attended a number of meetings and technology demonstrations with Brazilian officials, including tours of the Brazilian Air Traffic Management Center (the equivalent of the FAA’s ATC command center), an Embraer aircraft manufacturing and FAA-certified repair facility and an ATC facility. A bilateral meeting was held with Brazilian civil aviation authorities to discuss GPS and the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).

According to the FAA’s recently released annual aerospace forecast for 2004-2015, the total number of passengers to and from the U.S. is projected to return to pre-9/11 levels in 2006, and over the 12-year forecast period, Latin American passengers to the U.S. are expected to increase by 5.7 percent annually.

However, at a briefing on her return from South America, Blakey pointed out that almost half the countries in Latin America don’t meet ICAO safety standards, despite ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program and IATA’s new Operational Safety Audit. She said the FAA is working to bolster its international leadership by promoting harmonized aviation safety standards and trans-border airspace efficiency around the world.

Douglas Lavin, FAA assistant administrator for the Office of International Aviation, called Brazil a leader in the region that takes “very seriously” its responsibility for increasing the safety of its partners around Latin America. He added that Brazil has developed its own Enhanced Traffic Management System with Chile and is linking it with the FAA’s system.