The release of U.S. President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget includes a 2% reduction in the FAA’s budget, including cuts to spending on NextGen and FAA research activities.
As the budget awaits lawmaker approval, here are nine of the latest updates on progress the agency has made with the deployment of its NextGen air traffic management modernization program.
Data Comm by the Numbers
According to L2 Aviation President Mark Lebovitz, as of January 2018, a total of 2,165,422 flights have carried more than 309 million passengers on aircraft using controller-to-pilot datalink communications (CPDLC) procedures.
Basic equipage requirements for the use of DCIS includes a flight management system and a multi-purpose control display unit that is capable of providing an interface for CPDLC messages. Aircraft also need a communications management unit, a cockpit voice recorder capable of recording datalink communications and a very high frequency (VHF) transceiver featuring VHF Data Link Mode 2 capability. The Data Comm Integrated Services (DCIS) technology is designed to enable the exchange of digital messaging between pilots and controllers in U.S. domestic airspace.
Lebovitz provided the update on Twitter, from the Performance-Based Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PARC) Communication Working Group (CWG) event hosted by L2 Feb. 7.
A Fix for Erroneous ADS-B?
In January, the FAA issued a notice informing airspace users across all segments that it would begin blocking ADS-B codes that have been improperly configured within a given aircraft installation. FAA first started providing public updates about ADS-B-equipped aircraft featuring nonperforming equipment (NPE) in early 2017.
Some of the most common incorrect installation codes include 123456, A00000 and 000001. The agency is seeing an average of one flight per day featuring an erroneous code.
To check the status of equipment, operators are encouraged to request a public ADS-B performance report.
A recent report by the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT OIG) notes that the FAA has installed its Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) at 11 large terminal radar approach control (TRACON) air traffic facilities. STARS provides terminal automation with a single operational baseline and is capable of tracking up to 1,350 airborne aircraft simultaneously within a terminal area.
However, the FAA is still encountering challenges in transitioning from the legacy Common Automated Radar Terminal Systems (CARTS) to the new technology.
Moving forward, OIG is recommending that FAA finalize its timeline for identifying remaining STARS requirements and also provide a redesign of the power supply configuration of STARS rack assemblies.
OIG’s report noted that it observed STARS implementations at the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Northern California; Potomac, Maryland; and New York TRACONS featuring electrical connections to processor and remote sites reliant upon power strips that are “daisy chained” to the walls of the STARS processor equipment cabinets.
9,0000 PBN Routes
There are currently more than 9,000 performance-based navigation (PBN) routes and procedures deployed throughout the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS), and deployment has been completed at four out of seven planned metroplex sites.
A New ATC Voice System
According to the latest available information from the FAA, Harris Corp. will be testing the new National Voice System (NVS) software at the FAA’s Tech Center this year. NVS is designed to replace legacy analog systems with voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology that can help reconfigure ATC voice communications networks during heavy periods of traffic and emergencies.
Initial NVS operational testing and evaluation is scheduled for 2019 in Seattle before being deployed throughout the NAS by 2020.
Synergy With Europe?
In the December 2017/January 2018 issue of Avionics, leadership from Boeing, Eurocontrol and the FAA published an article detailing the ongoing work between the FAA’s NextGen program and the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) project to synergies the data communications technologies used by aircraft that fly in both regions.
Military ADS-B GAO Report
Jan. 18, 2018, a U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report stated that the U.S. Defense Department has an “urgent need” associated with equipping its aircraft with ADS-B. The new position reporting technology poses operational risk to Defense aircraft by exposing their positions to adversaries.
In a presentation at Avionics for NextGen in November 2017 on current and future use of EFBs, Biruk Abraham, an operations research analyst at the FAA, the internet of things (IOT) and system-wide information management is driving new usage of EFBs.
One of those new uses included the use of tablets by pilots for the SWIM Terminal Data Distribution System (STDDS), which the FAA notes is capable of converting raw surface data collected from Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facilities into easily accessible information. The information is published and made accessible via the NAS Enterprise Messaging Service (NEMS).
A potential use of STDDS is to overlay the status of other aircraft on or moving toward active runways.
A New ANSP?
The U.S. president’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal includes an initiative to remove air traffic control operations from the current FAA structure. This is the third request the new administration has made to establish a new air navigation service provider (ANSP) for the NAS.
General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) President Pete Bunce issued a statement in response to the proposal. In the two years since former Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster first introduced similar legislation, the proposal has been strongly supported by commercial airline advocacy groups, while being opposed by the business and general aviation community.
“The U.S. has the safest, most efficient, most technically advanced system in the world. Many other countries around the world utilize airspace system modernization technologies and procedures that the FAA designed and implemented. No other country has a nationwide deployed ADS-B ground infrastructure," said Bunce. "Similarly, the U.S. leads the world in deployment of data communication technology. The saying, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ most definitely applies here."