Avionics is keystone to next-generation air traffic management, says Avionics Europe keynote speaker

Posted by John McHale

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, 29 March. 2010. Current air traffic management (ATM) systems tell the "pilot where to go" while next-generation ATM systems such as the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) and the Federal Aviation Administration's NextGen will enable "the pilot to tell the system where to go," said John Law, surveillance program manager for Eurocontrol in Brussels, Belgium, during his keynote address at the Avionics Europe conference last week in Amsterdam.

The main program in Europe is the SESAR program, which focuses avionics evolution for ATM in key areas such as positioning, communication, trajectory management, safety enhancements, controls, and avionics displays, he noted. Law said that the keystone for this transition will be the avionics hardware and software.

Driving the need for next generation ATM is the projected increase in capacity, Law told the attendees. He listed estimates for a 28 to 39 percent increase by 2015 and an 80 to 85 percent increase by 2020 with about 73 percent traffic growth.

To accommodate this growth, efficiency must be improved with 98 percent of flights arriving on time and the average delay not exceeding 10 minutes, Law noted.

The ATM transition will be more difficult logistically in Europe compared to the U.S., Law said. In the U.S. there are only two key agencies dealing with the issue – the FAA and the RTCA -- while in Europe there are multiple groups such as Eurocontrol, the European Aviation Safety Association (EASA), the European
Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE), SESAR, as well as organizations within each of the European Union member countries, he added.

Avionics equipment

The three key areas where avionics equipment will enable next generation ATM are communications, navigation, and surveillance or CNS, Law said.

A SESAR structural avionics communications package would call for CNS functions such as datalink applications, Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) in/out capability, and access to System Wide Information Management (SWIM) information, including aeronautical and meteorological data, he continued.

The industry will also need to transition to Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS)-based navigation capability, required navigation performance (RNP), and 4D trajectory based operations, Law said.

In the surveillance category, the focus will be on airborne separation assistance system (ASAS); avionics supporting self separation; traffic situational awareness equipment for ground operations; Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) upgrades; and wake/vortex prediction, he continued.

One of the main programs Law's team is involved in is the CASCADE, which has a goal of 2013 for a forward fit of ADS-B technology and 2015 of ADS-B retrofit, Law said. CASCADE will establish a surveillance baseline for SESAR, he added

ADS-B applications include Airborne Traffic Situational Awareness (ATSAW), spacing, separation, and self separation, he said. It will provide better performance and spectrum efficiency as well as cost efficiency, Law noted.

The FAA is looking to have all airspace be ADS-B compatible by 2020, Law said.

Law said that Eurocontrol's role in SESAR is to plan and coordinate implementation; provide input to standards and specification definition; provide test facility and monitoring tools support; provide technical, operational, and safety support technical guidance; and certification and operations approval guidance for aircraft operators.

Law noted that Eurocontrol is not a regulator, as regulations are provided by EASA, the European community, and individual national authorities.

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