Few navigation systems have experienced the ups and downs of loran as they sought recognition. In December, a UK agency said the system is an essential back-up to GPS; the same month the FAA rejected it for the same purpose and an independent group of U.S. experts unanimously endorsed the system as a backup.
Air traffic control
The promise of ADS-B is well known by now: provide quality surveillance at a lower cost than conventional radar and improve situational awareness in the cockpit, thereby reducing the number of accidents or incidents–such as runway incursions–in the air and on the ground.
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 noted the agency’s latest FAA Administrator’s Fact Book reports that the overall total number of controllers dropped from 14,227 at the end of FY2005 to 14,206 in FY2006.
The UK’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS) has introduced a permanent 250-knot speed restriction for standard instrument departures (SIDs) from London’s Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Northolt and London City airports. Aircraft are required to maintain and not exceed 250 knots below FL100.
The FAA updated guidance (FAA Notice NJO 7110.456) to controllers for taxi into position and hold (TIPH) procedures, effective February 5. While most of the changes will be unnoticeable to pilots, two of note are: ATC can withhold the landing clearance when another aircraft is holding on the runway; and expect more traffic advisories for TIPH operations on intersecting runways.
At the FAA’s two-day New Technology Workshop last month, the focus was sharply on the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS). The key enablers to get there, according to Nick Sabatini, FAA associate administrator for aviation safety, will be “performance-based” navigation and Internet-like access to critical information such as near real-time weather.
Three serious near collisions on runways in Boston, New York and Las Vegas this year have prompted the NTSB to again press for quicker action by the FAA to reduce such incidents. This issue has been on the Safety Board’s “most wanted” list since its inception in 1990.
The latest Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on FAA efforts to modernize the ATC system restates that the agency continues to miss cost, schedule and performance targets.
The union representing air traffic controllers rejected the FAA’s request yesterday for federal mediation to help the agency reach a labor agreement with controllers, labeling it a “publicity stunt.” A 1998 contract expired on September 30, and the FAA suggests that little progress has been made since it and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association began negotiating on July 13.
The horizontal wake-turbulence avoidance distance currently required when a lighter aircraft is behind a heavier aircraft might have to be doubled when flying behind the new Airbus A380, according to preliminary recommendations by the International Civil Aviation Organization.