Avionics Europe conference keynote speaker says NextGEN and SESAR need to harmonize

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, 4 April 2009. Technology development for the Next Generation (NextGEN) Air Traffic Management system in the U.S. and the Single European Sky ATM Research or SESAR program in Europe "needs to harmonize" to ensure the transition from current systems is efficient and cost effective, says the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) Donald Ward.

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, 4 April 2009. Technology development for the Next Generation (NextGEN) Air Traffic Management system in the U.S. and the Single European Sky ATM Research or SESAR program in Europe "needs to harmonize" to ensure the transition from current systems is efficient and cost effective, says the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) Donald Ward.

Ward, international representative to Europe for the FAA in Brussels, Belgium, made his remarks during the keynote address at the Avionics 2009 conference and exhibition held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in March.

It is essential to have commonality between the two systems because the technology is too complicated to try to develop independently, Ward says. The FAA is working with the European Union and groups such as EUROCONTROL to ensure an efficient transition, he adds. EUROCONTROL is the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation

SESAR and NextGEN designers and planners need to align thier avionics roadmaps, have matching standards for trajectory management, and perform collaborative planning on airspace and network management, he notes.

They need to come together on concepts, training, avionics and procedure, Ward continues.

The basic goals of NextGEN are to "increase capacity, minimize the environmental impact of aviation, and improve safety and security."

To accomplish this the FAA will need to change culturally as well. Ward says that the FAA has gotten bogged down in its own buearocracy over the years.

The FAA is part of the U.S. government so "it can't really go commercial," but it can adapt a business perspective, Ward says. It is making efforts to become more business like and to understand the needs of industry and minimize the risk for early adopters of NextGEN technology.

The FAA needs to focus on business models that work especially when dealing with the military, he says. It is critical to involve the military each step of the way or "there will be major problems down the road. The military is a big stakeholder in this process."

Beneficial changes brought by NextGEN will include transitioning from ground-based surveillance and navigation to satellite-based navigation and surveillance and from voice communications to digital data exchange.

Through the digital data exchange pilots will be given real-time information such as weather forecasting and moving maps of runways that show vehicles and other aircraft. These maps will be on electronic flight bags (EFBs), a big enabler of NextGEN, Ward says. The digital messages will also be delivered to the EFB.

Ward says NextGEN will bring benefits to each stage of flight – pre-flight; push back taxi and departure; climb and cruise; descent and approach; and landing, taxi, and arrival.

In pre flight, aircraft operators can access all information from a single course such as military airspace availability, weather constraints, status on closed runways and taxiways, he says.

When planes push back for taxi and departure their final flight path will be delivered digitally as a data message to the cockpit, the flight deck display will show aircraft movement and planes will be able to operate on simultaneously on closely spaced parallel runways, Ward continues.

During climb and cruise routine air traffic controller tasks will be automated so they can focus on more important functions.

During the descent and approach phase the approach analysis starts further in advance with a datacomm link providing arrival information and "final flight path negotiation," Ward says.

During landing, taxi, and arrival, the preferred taxiway will be transmitted via the datacomm link, the cockpit and controller displays will monitor aircraft movements, and gate area vehicle movements will be provided to pilots, he continues.

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