Expert Advocates Taking Older Equipment off Aircraft

 - December 10, 2007, 9:49 AM

Aircraft operators have been forced to add new technology to meet updated requirements since the 1950s, but nothing ever seems to come off aircraft, one air traffic expert noted recently.

At the conference of the U.S. Air Traffic Control Association late last year, Adrian Dumsa, assistant director of air traffic management at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), strongly urged U.S. and overseas delegates to move away from legacy CNS concepts and adopt proven new technologies worldwide. While the title of his conference session was “Aviation Infrastructure–A Mid-Life Crisis,” Dumsa suggested that much of the existing infrastructure was decaying, and was actually at the end of its life.

For example, he noted that while most nations require sophisticated aircraft to navigate within fractions of a mile, they still mandate the same aircraft be equipped with an ADF. In IATA’s view, it is long past time for the aviation community to implement the vision of the future ATM environment that ICAO’s Air Navigation Commission and, subsequently, the full ICAO Assembly of world nations has endorsed.

This vision, which IATA has dubbed “One Sky–Global ATM,” recognizes that aircraft today–particularly airliners and corporate airplanes–operate globally and should not be hampered unnecessarily by national or regional differences in equipment requirements. The ideal, according to IATA, would be that all ATC providers, while they may wish to implement quasi-legacy systems for their local or regional operations, should also provide a control environment through which international operators can transit with a minimum set of avionics. However, Dumsa noted, many newer technologies, such as RVSM, ADS-B and the less demanding RNP-10, are already proven and can bring significant benefits when implemented regionally.

He emphasized that the transition to a modern, worldwide ATM environment must be tied to a commonly agreed-upon “roadmap,” to allow for regional coordination and to ensure that users can equip in a timely, cost-effective manner. In IATA’s past experience, too often changes occurred in a patchwork fashion that reduced user cost savings, with RVSM being a notable example. In some cases, too, operators equipped to use a promised capability only to find that the promise was either never fulfilled or delayed for several years.

As a result, IATA developed a One Sky–Global ATM roadmap in conjunction with Airbus, Boeing, the European Air Traffic Alliance, and ATC/avionics manufacturer Thales, with strong support from the FAA and Eurocontrol, and with input from Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, Arinc, Inmarsat and SITA. The roadmap outlines applicable technology over the next 25 years, with emphasis on practical implementation and performance enhancement, rather than on more planning and new equipment standards.

In reviewing the status of worldwide ATM modernization, Dumsa said implementation of three key enablers–CPDLC, ADS and RNP–was in place or planned for all major routes. These three, he stated, “will start to deliver enormous benefits to users and change the nature of air traffic services.” With those capabilities, coupled with satellite-guided non-precision or Category I precision approaches, terrestrial system requirements could be limited to Category II/III ILS and radar, with satellite technology eventually superceding even these.