Halfway into its first long-term, wide-encompassing contract with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), U.S.-based research and development organization Mitre Corp. is pushing forward on efforts to foster air traffic control efficiencies and safety-data collaboration in the region. Mitre, which has long assisted the U.S. FAA in air traffic, procurement, safety, and other major initiatives, five years ago signed an initial contract of up to 10 years with CAAS to assist in a range of initiatives as Asia remains one of the fastest-growing regions for Asia.
Pointing to Mitre’s mission to “fix big problems,” Gregg Leone, v-p and director of the Mitre Center for Advanced Aviation System Development, said the agreement with CAAS is similar to what it has had in place with the FAA. With the growth over the past decades in the economies throughout the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, he added, “the aviation problems there are certainly as daunting as we have had in the U.S.”
Co-exhibiting with the CAAS (Chalets C23, CS12), the organizations will display one of the fruits of that partnership, a conflict resolution tool that is used for both safety and efficiency, helping aircraft to get to certain points at certain times. The research organization also has encouraged and attracted numerous aviation officials not only from Singapore but throughout the region to its laboratory built in Singapore, the first such Mitre facility outside the U.S. (Mitre Asia Pacific Singapore, or MAPS) to showcase and test various safety and air traffic concepts in preparation for the future.
One of the more immediate projects ongoing is the expansion of commercial runway availability at Singapore Changi Airport. The airport is undergoing a runway rehabilitation project that would have three available runways for commercial operations (including one that would be for joint use), along with new terminal buildings and associated taxiway realignments. While not slated for completion for another five years or so, the work at Changi will set the stage for anticipated growth and enable triple simultaneous landings when the time comes for that need.
But all of this requires procedures to safely accommodate such growth, Leone said. “When you spend the…huge investments on the surface, you want to spend the money to get the airspace and the tools and technologies to set up the flow and to build the procedures.”
This includes determining not only the inflow and outflow but which runways are more efficient at which times to bring the aircraft closest to the right terminal. In addition, considerations must be taken about procedures in case of a go-around on one runway and how that may affect others.
These are important issues not just in Singapore, but throughout APAC as the region moves forward with the development of infrastructure at numerous locations. That is "really kind of the new thing" occurring across the region, Leone added.
Singapore authorities have had a strong vision and desire to prepare for the future, Leone added. “It's critical that they're out in front of this capacity curve and they absolutely are way out in front,” he said. “We're helping them try to figure out how do you prepare this? What are the systems you need in place? How do you do the monitoring of these things? When would you use them? These are not things you do overnight.”
As traffic increases in Singapore, it necessitates more coordination throughout the region. Mitre has reached out to regional authorities to help them consider “what's possible and what's coming,” as well as support what the International Civil Aviation Organization believes is needed in the region.
Regional authorities “have to work better together. They don't talk across borders,” Leone said. It’s routine for centers in the U.S. to coordinate on traffic, but in APAC, “We're trying to figure out how to show them to work better together collaboratively, and share data and information in new ways so that they can set up flows of traffic much farther out.”
The same holds true with safety data sharing, Leone said. Mitre is hoping to foster an environment that might lead to a full data sharing effort similar to the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) program in the U.S. Aviation authorities in Singapore are working with others to build a collaborative effort on safety data. That initiative, the Asia Pacific Share, has the commitment of initial partners, among them China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Others are expressing interest in participating.
This effort is still in the early stages under which Mitre is examining global safety data and providing reports to them. “The first step is just to get willing participants to talk and share openly about what is perceived as safety issues.” Eventually, the goal would be to have the regions participate in providing reports, furnishing their own data and metrics, as well as operator participation similar to that in the U.S.
There are barriers to full transparency still, both cultural and political, and concerns about the criminalization of unintentional actions. But Leone called that initial partnership and important step forward because it demonstrates a commitment to moving forward on such collaboration. “When I say committed,” Leone added, “they're actually funding this effort and they're committing their resources and people to participate in it. That's good progress.”