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Monday, September 1, 2008

NextGen Now

Florida is serving as a national testbed to expedite procedures and technologies of the Next Generation Air Transportation System

Ramon Lopez

Florida, already the location of an "Airport of the Future" project to demonstrate emerging technologies, has been designated as a testbed to expedite the use of Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) procedures and technologies.

As part of the effort, air taxi operator DayJet Corp., based in Boca Raton, in collaboration with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) and the Florida Department of Transportation, has entered into a multi-year agreement with FAA for the phased implementation of NextGen technologies, including Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B).

The agreement "establishes a government-industry partnership responsible for developing replicable procedures that can be used for the accelerated deployment of NextGen technologies nationally, integrating real-time surveillance and performance data in the air carrier’s network control system, and setting the stage for automated flight planning," DayJet said in an announcement June 10.

The Florida demonstration represents the first integrated implementation of NextGen capabilities for passenger services in the continental United States and is also the first to focus on the safe expansion of airspace outside metropolitan areas, involving small community airports and Very Light Jets (VLJ), said DayJet, a Part 135 on-demand carrier.

The DayJet project is tied to a separate, ongoing ITT Corp. effort to deploy and operate ADS-B ground stations, key components of NextGen, across the southern half of Florida for field trials. It also is linked to another effort of ERAU, with Daytona Beach International Airport (DBIA) and Lockheed Martin, to develop a next-generation Integrated Airport that utilizes the same advanced technologies and others.

In March, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said the so-called "Sunshine State" would serve as the national testbed for accelerating Next Gen. "The Southeast has a good mix of traffic and a good mix of weather — just the kind of place to put NextGen through the paces," Peters said.

"In Florida, we’ll assess our ability to conduct trajectory-based operations by demonstrating the ability to maintain a single aircraft track or trajectory throughout a flight, first by leveraging existing technologies," Victoria Cox, FAA senior vice president of NextGen and Operations Planning, told the RTCA Symposium in May.

"Future tests will integrate new networking capabilities as they are developed. Networked operations will allow seamless passing of data between automation systems for integrated coordination of aircraft tracks. Ultimately, adding the fourth dimension of time will be a key enabler of our NextGen transformation."

In the transition to NextGen, FAA is implementing new routes and procedures that leverage emerging aircraft navigation capabilities, including Performance-Based Navigation (PBN), a framework for defining navigation performance requirements. PBN includes both Area Navigation (RNAV) and Required Navigation Performance (RNP) specifications.

RNAV enables aircraft to fly on any desired flight path within the coverage of ground or space-based navigation aids, within the limits of the capability of the self-contained systems, or a combination of both capabilities. RNAV aircraft have better access and flexibility for point-to-point operations, FAA says. RNP adds an onboard navigation performance monitoring and alerting capability.

The Florida testbed will evaluate RNAV routes between the Miami, Orlando and Daytona airports and New York City metropolitan airports — Teterboro, JFK, LaGuardia and Newark. Continuous descent approaches and tailored arrivals will be used in Miami. The latter city also will be the key site for the provision of Traffic Information Services-Broadcast (TIS-B) and Flight Information Services-Broadcast (FIS-B) services. TIS-B broadcasts traffic information to ADS-B equipped aircraft from ADS-B ground stations. The information is derived from ground-based air-traffic control surveillance radars. FIS-B provides pilots with weather and flight planning information.

DayJet and ERAU are working closely with several Florida agencies and FAA to develop priorities for airspace procedures and airport capabilities.

Over the next five years, DayJet will operate a portion of its fleet of Eclipse 500 VLJs with equipment enabling it to provide the government with data necessary to achieve a performance-based air-traffic management system.

The Daytona Beach campus of ERAU is responsible for project management, airspace modeling and simulation, implementing RNP procedures and ADS-B applications, along with developing curricula for NextGen education.

"We see this as the natural combination of private business, higher education and the federal government working together to set the course for the future of air traffic management," said Tim Brady, dean of the College of Aviation at the Daytona Beach campus.

According to Steve Hampton, associate dean for research at the College of Aviation and the project’s manager, the first phase of the project (2008-2009) will focus on planning the deployment of ADS-B and RNP technology for performance-based navigation, allowing aircraft operators to fly more precise flight paths at optimum altitudes to reduce fuel burn, carbon emissions and noise.

"This is an early demonstration of new technologies in which ADS-B supports RNP. As we collect data, we will build a business case for ADS-B and NextGen, replicating what was done in southern Florida to other parts of the country," Hampton said.

The ADS-B-equipped VLJs will interface with 11 ADS-B ground stations being installed across south Florida, receiving TIS-B and FIS-B broadcasts. Five will be located at airports — Lakeland Linder Regional, Dade-Collier, Florida Keys Marathon Airport, Boca Raton and Sebastian Municipal — and the remaining six on cell phone towers.

The ground stations, or ground-based transceivers (GBT), are part of the 794 stations that ITT is to deploy nationwide by 2013 under the firm’s $1.86 billion contract from FAA, with options, to establish an ADS-B ground infrastructure ( Avionics, November 2007, page 28).

According to a FAA Notice to Airmen in July, 37 GBT sites had been installed, including 15 in Alaska.

In testimony before the U.S. Senate in July, Henry P. Krakowski, who heads FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, said ITT-installed equipment was undergoing service acceptance testing, with an "in-service" decision expected in November. Following an affirmative decision, FAA can exercise an option for nationwide deployment.

The second phase of the Florida ADS-B demonstration (2009-2011) will execute ADS-B/RNP usage while the third phase (2011-2013) will implement System Wide Information Management (SWIM) and deploy performance-based communications for flight planning and flight plan management.

Future Airport

Meanwhile, the ongoing Integrated Airport project is demonstrating the synergy among available and emerging technologies for improvements in capacity, efficiency, safety and security for an airport and its associated arrival/departure airspace.

The goal is to show the feasibility of accelerating NextGen operational concepts and capabilities and to showcase these capabilities at a prototypical "Airport of the Future" in Daytona Beach.

Embry-Riddle, Daytona Beach International Airport and Lockheed Martin are leading a broad industry consortium that also includes Transtech Airport Solutions, ENSCO, Mosaic ATM, Jeppesen, Sensis, Boeing, CSC, Volpe National Transportation Center and Frequentis. DBIA is serving as the testbed.

The project is validating how current and new technologies and advanced concepts can be integrated to link airport operators, airlines and their dispatchers, air traffic managers and controllers, customs and security officials, pilots and other stakeholders in a system that delivers the right information to the right people at the right time.

While FAA has a great deal of automation at its air-traffic control facilities, it has almost no broad situation awareness of what happens on airport ramps, taxiways and runways.

Desired benefits from the research include: fuel savings, more predictable arrivals and departures in any weather, fewer runway incursions and reduced taxiway congestion.

A unique feature of the project — and one that will help develop an effective "real world" design — was the decision to create the futuristic Integrated Airport at a working commercial airfield.

The five-year Integrated Airport project began in 2006 as a way to address nagging airport capacity, safety and security issues. As designed, the project is proceeding in four phases: (1) Integrated safety and security functions on the airport surface; (2) Improved airport capacity and efficiency by employing advanced surface management; (3) Integrated arrival and departure management; and (4) Airport all-weather operations and integration of new aircraft technology.

Key functional areas include airline dispatch and ramp management operations; FAA terminal radar approach control and surface operations; collaborative arrival and departure management; and airport security and business operations.

Last November, the aviation industry consortium conducted a second Integrated Airport demonstration at DBIA during which collaborative Airport Wide Information Management (AWIM), a process that enables systems to publish and subscribe surveillance and flight data consistent with the NextGen SWIM strategy, was exercised.

The systems and data involved included surface decision support tools, electronic flight data, airline operations, terminal automation, weather information and gust/windshear detection, ADS-B surface surveillance and millimeter wave sensors able to detect aircraft, ground vehicles, debris and wildlife on airport surfaces.

The initial work is focusing on improvements to surface management, surface surveillance and runway-taxiway incursion alerting, enhancement of perimeter security and detection of unauthorized aircraft movements.

The goal is to show how advanced systems can monitor a taxiing aircraft’s actual path versus its taxi plan.

As envisioned, optical sensors would read aircraft tail numbers to help spot unapproved aircraft ground movements.

Transtech Airport Solutions, Windsor, Conn., is heavily involved in Phase 1, having contributed its Millimeter Wave Sensor (MWS) and Optical Identification Sensor (OIS) for evaluation.

Lockheed Martin/Transtech’s Critical Area Management System (CAMS), a low-cost surface surveillance system for runway incursion detection, incorporates the MWS and OIS. CAMS provides aircraft tracking data.

The "WindTracer" Doppler light-detection and ranging (LIDAR) system developed by Lockheed Martin Coherent Technologies, Louisville, Colo., is also part of the project. WindTracer provides ATC personnel with advanced warning of wind hazards such as windshear, microbursts, gust fronts, turbulence and crosswinds, enabling them to offer precise advisements to pilots during takeoff and landing.

While Phase 1 is testing new capabilities to track people and aircraft more effectively, Phase 2, which began in 2007, adds automation for aircraft management on the airport surface.

The technologies involved include Lockheed Martin’s "FltWinds" decision support system and Common ARTS automation system, ADS-B and Mosaic ATM’s Surface Decision Support System (SDSS).

The SDSS displays flight information and surface and terminal area aircraft positions to ramp controllers, supervisors and dispatchers, improving the efficiency of surface operations while reducing delays and emissions. FltWinds combines aviation weather processing and forecast tools with an advanced aircraft tracking and display capability.

Phase 3 arrival and departure management covers a lot of ground, including: precise local area weather observation; wake vortex prediction and detection for refined arrival planning; integrated surface, arrival/departure planning and operations; and development of procedures for smooth, straight-in arrivals/departures. Phase 4, destined to start in the 2009-2010 time frame, will involve ENSCO, Falls Church, Va., providing local weather prediction devices.

Lockheed Martin/Frequentis "SmartStrip" electronic flight strips (EFS) would eventually replace today’s paper flight strips. The SmartStrip system uses touch-screen displays where the information resembles conventional paper strips and is manipulated in a similar way.

Under the concept, AWIM connects the air carriers, flight operations and airport services, such as aircraft fuelers and caterers. Pilots are data linked their taxi route and any route changes. All parties receive up-to-date information on the readiness of aircraft to push back and the location of aircraft moving about the airport surface.

Brad Culbertson, principal strategist for Lockheed Martin, says the Integrated Airport project is paying dividends.

"There has been a huge amount of lessons learned in determining what it will take to integrate these diverse systems together. We’re beginning to show how these systems can deliver benefit."

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