Is the FAA’s billion-dollar-a-year NextGen program devolving into a patchwork of technology demonstrations, refined routings to discrete airports and reduced aircraft separations over mainly water? Is the agency’s promised comprehensive overhaul of the National Airspace System chasing its predecessor grand vision—Free Flight—into oblivion?
The FAA has extended for a second year an operational evaluation of pilot initiated climbs and descents using in-trail procedures (ITP) in Pacific Ocean airspace. The trial involves 12 United Airlines Boeing 747-400s flying between the U.S. West Coast and Australia and New Zealand. Having extended the evaluation to Aug. 15, 2013, the agency said that it is also holding “exploratory conversations” with ANA and Japan Airlines to include some of their aircraft in the process.
The FAA’s $550 million system-wide information management (Swim) program to fashion a unified information management system from the various flight data, weather and advisory systems used in the National Airspace System calls to mind a hub-and-spoke computer network exchanging digital signals with the big iron in the sky.
Think working at New York Tracon is a tough job? Try heading down to the Gulf of Mexico, where controllers handle between 5,000 and 9,000 helicopter flights a day, all without the aid of surveillance radar.
The flight planner available on Flight-Aware’s Web site is still in pre-release beta form, and FlightAware is asking users to submit feedback. Nevertheless, the planner offers a lot of features and capability for the price, which is free.
American Airlines Capt. Russell Chew, managing director of systems operations control for the carrier, has been chosen to be the chief operating officer (COO) of the long-gestating Air Traffic Organization (ATO) within the FAA.
In a preview of what the FAA has in store for pilots with the introduction of Free Flight, a new “wireless to the cockpit” aircraft situation display is in development by Flight Explorer, a company that provides flight-tracking services to corporate and airline customers.
Despite recent events, the FAA is continuing its modernization of the National Airspace System (NAS), and controller-pilot datalink communication (CPDLC) remains a key building block in its Operational Evolution Plan.
Buoyed by the success of its three-year ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast) operational evaluation project, named Capstone and centered on Bethel in western Alaska, the FAA plans next year to increase the number of participants and to implement a second, broadly similar project centered on Juneau, Alaska.
The FAA is attributing better planning between major airlines and ATC for reducing delays nearly 12 percent since the implementation of Free Flight Phase 1. The trials include a process called collaborative decision-making (CDM), whereby airlines and ATC continuously share planning information to streamline the flow of traffic in and out of major hub airports.
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