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Monday, February 26, 2007

US FAA is Moving for Harmony and Concert in Global Air Traffic Control

As the FAA qualifies three companies (ITT, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin) to vie for a multi-billion dollar contract to start building the satellite-based Global Positioning System that will underpin the Next Generation Air Traffic System, it's also been busy internationally. Feelers are out for European, Indian and Chinese participation in the overall concept. The contract will be completed by 2014 in two phases, the first of which calls for the installation of communications equipment in Philadelphia, Louisville and Juneau, Alaska, as well as on oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. However the full upgrade of the air traffic control system is not expected to be completed until 2025.

In an address to the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on 20 Feb, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said the United States and the European Union (EU), the two largest air transportation markets in the world, are trying to meet the challenge of explosive air traffic growth by developing their own advanced air traffic management systems – the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) and the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) program. Blakey said, however, that unless the two parties move in harmony, making sure that these systems are interoperable, management of international air traffic is unlikely to measure up to the growing needs of civil aviation.

“If NextGen and SESAR aren’t compatible, … we’ve taken a step forward technologically, but taken a step back strategically,” she said. In 2006, the Bush administration and the European Commission signed an agreement to cooperate and collaborate on developing the systems. Assistant Secretary of Transportation Andrew Steinberg, said that China, with its relatively undeveloped infrastructure, has an opportunity to jump directly to satellite-based air traffic systems, passing more developed countries that continue to rely on ground-based systems. Blakey said her agency would like to use the experience it has gained in China to craft an aviation cooperation program with India, another rapidly developing aviation market.“We are counting on a long-term relationship with India to work with them to grow their aviation system,” she said.
The first U.S.-India Partnership Summit, scheduled for April 23-25 in New Delhi, will provide an opportunity to discuss the most important issues related to bilateral cooperation such as airport development and construction and air traffic management. India already has asked for U.S. assistance in implementing more advanced navigation and training for its air controllers. The United States has offered to assist with the certification of India’s own satellite-based navigational system.

"The US-India Aviation Cooperation Programme (ACP) could start very shortly now that the long-awaited agreement has been approved by the India Cabinet and is ready for signature. We are counting on a long term relationship with India to grow their aviation system", Blakey told the Royal Aeronautical Society. "We're working with India on performance-based navigation. India believes that implementing performance-based navigation will have a significant impact on their air traffic management," the top FAA official remarked.

Once India, China and the European Union are intertwined and onboard with the US, global acceptance of the new technology will be fait accompli.
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