Facing the demands of increasing air traffic capacity and operational efficiency, the countries of the Asia Pacific region have launched various programs to adopt recent advances in Air Traffic Management and advances inavionics technology over the past couple of decades. Some countries (notably Australia) have forged ahead, while others are further behind, but it is hoped that recent developments could see closer cooperation for an eventual move to a whole-area solution.
The Performance-based Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PARC) last week publicly released the final report that its Flight Deck Automation (FDA) working group delivered to the FAA in September. The FDA group was established by PARC, which provides industry-led guidance for the FAA, to address the safety and efficiency of modern flight-deck systems for flight-path management, including energy-state management, for both current and future operational use.
Because air traffic controllers are increasingly making traffic separation decisions based upon an aircraft’s global navigation satellite system (GNSS) capability–or lack thereof–the FAA has begun updating aircraft equipment suffixes for traffic operating in U.S. domestic airspace. For instance, a GNSS-equipped aircraft may now fly a random route without the need for ATC radar monitoring, where previously radar was always required.
UK air navigation services provider NATS has started a 14-week “consultation” process through January 21 to gather comments from airlines and other interested groups on proposed airspace changes surrounding Gatwick and London City airports. The consultation marks the first step in a wider program of proposed changes under the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s Future Airspace Strategy, an ATC modernization plan for the UK and Ireland.
It is becoming more and more likely that in coming histories of aviation, the key major milestones will include the introduction of jet aircraft, the widespread adoption of satellite positioning and the arrival of required navigation performance (RNP). Jets and satnav are now irreplaceable elements that we take for granted.
Prominent aviation industry figures fear that a list of priorities developed to keep the NextGen ATC modernization effort on track during a time of funding pressure and ongoing “sequestration” budget cuts in the U.S. could undermine the ambitious, two-decade effort.
The NextGen priorities list developed by an RTCA advisory committee was announced on Friday at the annual NextGen Institute meeting in Washington, D.C. The RTCA NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) approved the list one day earlier, assigning “Tier 1A and 1B” priority to 11 capabilities that are considered equally important.
The RTCA NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) has recommended a list of priorities for the Federal Aviation Administration as it rolls out the NextGen ATC modernization in the U.S. against increasing budgetary pressure.
American Airlines has spent some $400 million in the past few years to retrofit its existing fleet for the planned NextGen flight environment in the U.S. But at this stage it has not seen the operational benefits it had hoped for, according to the airline’s director of airspace modernization and advanced technologies.
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.
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