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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

    Integrating the world’s air transportation systems

    By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications, posted 17 June 2014, 1:45 p.m. EDT

    interoperability_of_NextGen_Panel_17Jun14If we want to have smarter, cleaner and safer aircraft operations throughout the global aviation enterprise, we will have to find the political will to work together to implement the technological systems that will make those goals a reality: That was the message of the morning panel on international integration and Interoperability at the AIAA AVIATION 2014 Forum in Atlanta, Ga.

    Aerospace America editor-in-chief Ben Iannotta moderated the panel, which focused on the barriers that prevent full interoperability of next-generation air traffic control technology and safety measures. Panelists were Peter Cerdá, regional vice president, the Americas, at the International Air Transport Association; Steve Kong, business and technical development manager, Inmarsat Aviation; Allan McArtor, chairman and CEO, Airbus Group; and Tony Ng, Lockheed Martin Fellow, Lockheed Martin Corporation.

    Two major themes emerged from the panel. The first involved work on NextGen – the U.S. next-generation air transportation system – and SESAR, the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research project. Panelists agreed that despite the progress made on both systems, much work remains to be done. As Certa put it, “When we look at NextGen and SESAR, we have had some successes, but if you talk to airline CEOs, they feel the implementation speed is not at the level it should be. The CEOs say we have spent millions and billions on equipment, but the return [on investment] has been too slow. If we move over to Europe, [where] we have talked SESAR for 18 years, we are no better off now than we were when we started.”

    Panelists agreed that the lack of progress stemmed from two things: First, the difficulties that come with explaining technological needs and solutions to politicians who are not trained in technology – but who need to understand it in order to mandate implementation within a feasible time scale; and second, the number of players involved – getting the U.S., Europe and other parts of the world – especially Asia – to coordinate the technology’s implementation effectively.

    The second theme was that of safety and global monitoring of air traffic in real time, especially in light of the recent disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Ng said this is a very difficult problem, using the U.S. as an example: “We have 20 en-route systems, three oceanic systems, a couple of offshore systems, and hundreds of tower systems – and that doesn’t count all the other systems used by airlines. It’s fragmented ¬ everyone has a portion, we share the minimum to hand off flights.” What is needed, he said, is “a single, national, authoritative view of the flight data, so you don’t have to go to see several pieces, but can go one place” to see all flight data for the U.S.

    Panelists also agreed that a fragmented system is not optimal for flight safety and tracking, and that developing a single tracking system would make global aviation safer. The group discussed the ADS-B ¬ automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast – system vs. the automatic dependent surveillance-contract, ADS-C, system, but said both are needed. Kong explained that ADS-B “only really works over land,” while ADS-C is more important over water – and “given the vast amount of water on our planet,” he said, it is very important.

    McArtor proposed a solution for accomplishing the move toward NextGen, SESAR, and enhanced safety: “The only way to get industry to change its behaviors is to announce a date [by] which you must have compliance and shift over,” he told the audience. “We did the same thing with Stage 3 noise compliance – we said ‘there’s a date, and you have to be there or else!’”

    Panelists emphasized that bringing NextGen, SESAR and enhanced tracking along to full implementation is critical. As Cerdá stated, “By 2030 we will have 5.9 billion passengers travel, about double the amount that will travel this year. We will have 45,000 in service compared to 24,000 in 2010. Aircraft movement will [be] 48 million compared to 26 million today. The big concern is [that] if NextGen and SESAR and the other initiatives are not implemented effectively and now, [in] that future of 2030 it will be difficult to fly smarter and cleaner, and our skies will not be as safe. And that is a huge concern for our industry.”

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