NextGen Workshop Outlines Future ATC Functions

 - March 23, 2015, 3:30 PM

On March 6, AIN and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University hosted the Business Aviation NextGen Workshop in Daytona Beach, Fla. The free workshop was designed to help business aviation users understand more about the FAA’s NextGen architecture, costs and deadlines and view a live demonstration of the university’s Florida NextGen Testbed (FTB). Seminar sponsors included Chicago Jet Group, Rockwell Collins, International Communications Group (ICG), Garmin and Aspen Avionics.

The FTB, a public-private partnership with the FAA, is located at Daytona Beach International Airport and consists of a test and demonstration facility and the Embry-Riddle NextGen Program Office.

“What the testbed was founded on was a relationship among industry, academia and government,” said Wade Lester, senior executive program manager at Embry-Riddle. Its primary functions are research and development, prototyping, demonstrations, exploring new technologies and concepts and, he said, “to help the FAA make better decisions.” The idea is to test concepts in a live lab to see if they actually work and provide benefits.

The FTB emulates nine of the 20 FAA air route traffic control centers (ARTCC), and the remaining 11 are being added. It also emulates New York and Oakland oceanic centers and ground surveillance and traffic metering systems and a typical flight operations center.

The “Mini Global” live demo illustrated how ATC systems data is shared within the U.S. National Airspace System and with international partner air navigation service providers (ANSPs).

In the first demo, a Sigmet for volcanic ash resulted in a flight plan change for a flight from Japan to Los Angeles. That change had to be coordinated between JCAB and FAA oceanic control and then passed on to FAA domestic ARTCC and local Los Angeles controllers.

The next demo showed how flight objects can be updated during flight. In this example a dangerous-goods message is attached to a business jet flight after it has departed, and the ATC system connects to other organizations to illustrate how the FAA can share critical information. The outside organizations could be other ANSPs or, for example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency or law-enforcement agencies. The jet’s symbol on the Surface Decision Support System screen changes to red to identify its new status. The status change could be the result of an unruly passenger, mechanical failure or any situation that raises risk and which the operator believes should be brought to the attention of ATC and other agencies.

Bizav-specific Applications

After the FTB demo, the workshop drilled into the specifics of how NextGen will affect business aircraft operators, including upcoming mandates for ADS-B out and future air navigation system (Fans) equipage. Jens Hennig, v-p of operations at the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, summarized the ADS-B situation. This was followed by a presentation on the mission and objectives of the NextGen Institute by that organization’s executive director, Marke Gibson. Rich Jehlen, former FAA Air Traffic Organization director of operational concepts and requirements and now v-p of LS Technologies, outlined how NextGen concepts interface with business aviation.

A panel discussion in the early afternoon featured Duncan Aviation avionics sales expert Steve Elofson, GAMA’s Hennig and Jad Donaldson, chief pilot for Avfuel’s flight department. The discussion dug deeper into equipage issues, and audience members asked many questions about specific products available for ADS-B upgrades for their companies’ business aircraft.

The afternoon was set aside for breakout sessions, including a live demonstration of actual Fans/controller pilot datalink communications (CPDLC) equipment by Chicago Jet Group director of operations Mike Mitera and avionics manager Kevin Hufford. They brought a real ICG Iridium satcom wired to a Universal Avionics FMS and connected to an Iridium antenna stationed on the roof then demonstrated live messaging between that rig and a simulated ATC ground station in a separate room, giving attendees a real-world taste of how this new technology works. Chicago Jet achieved the first Fans STC for a business jet–in a Falcon 50 –and the demo rig is also used to test installations to ensure they meet the 240-second round-trip messaging requirement.