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Monday, November 1, 2010

Perspectives: The Business Case

Steven Loranger

Achieving the benefits of NextGen will require that users equip with avionics supporting NextGen capabilities — avionics for ADS-B, data communications and Required Navigation Performance.

On the commercial carrier front, the willingness to equip will be driven by the ability to close a business case for retrofitting existing aircraft and forward-fitting aircraft that have yet to come off the production line. The ability to close the business case is in turn driven by two principal factors: these are the benefits to be derived from equipage and the cost of equipage.

Ensuring that NextGen technical capabilities deliver the benefits that are promised by their full implementation needs to be a significant focus of the community, and the leadership for this has to come from the FAA. Technical capabilities can only deliver benefit if the air traffic operational procedures are developed and implemented to allow use of the capabilities.

In the ADS-B arena, for example, the FAA’s business case for ADS-B Out closes on the basis of the benefits to operation in non-radar areas, savings in cost for surveillance infrastructure, improved operation of controller decision tools, and enhanced safety. Where ADS-B promises to deliver enormous benefit to dense operational environments in terms of dramatically increased capacity and efficiency, however, is through ADS-B In equipage and procedures.

To this end, FAA has been actively working to mature applications such as In Trail Procedures and has been developing a roadmap for ADS-B applications development. This road map is documented in the Applications Integrated Work Plan. This and other work that is advancing NextGen concepts is laudable and is moving the bubble.

The question is — is there a paradigm for more efficient maturation of NextGen concepts to allow more rapid implementation?

Consider the ADS-B application Interval Management with Delegated Separation. Under this ADS-B application, airborne aircraft will be able to station keep on preceding aircraft under instruction from ATC. It is an application that can, we believe, allow the use of CDAs (continuous descent approaches) in dense terminal environments in high traffic volume circumstances.

Consideration of what it takes to put such an application in the NAS, however, indicates that it will be difficult. The application will require enroute and terminal air-traffic controller tools to allow such things as the determination of which aircraft are eligible for use of the procedure and for inter-sector/inter-facility coordination of clearance status information.

Accordingly, enroute and terminal automation systems are impacted. The application will require traffic flow management activity to group properly equipped aircraft impacting traffic flow management applications. The application will require development of avionics, implying the need for RTCA standards activities leading to the development of minimum operational performance standards, and ultimately to TSO’d avionics. Additionally, air traffic standards and procedures and flight deck procedures require development. Success requires all of these activities to come together.

Operational capabilities need to be taken on as programs under program manager leadership. In the example provided above, what is advocated is a program that will mature the operational concepts, define and allocate requirements to NAS subsystems and operational elements, prototype and iterate requirements definition and allocation, develop the materials that can feed the RTCA process in parallel with development, conduct large scale field demonstrations to fully verify the system solution and then move quickly to operational implementation.

It is notable that the FAA has put in place contract vehicles that can fully support such an integrated approach to research and development. The SE2020 SIR (Screening Information Request) 1 contracts provide the FAA with access to three teams with full capabilities to rapidly advance NAS capabilities to include ground-based tactical automation, strategic flow management automation, avionics and procedures expertise. With the vehicles in place, what is required is a prioritization of capabilities to be matured, and alignment of funding to support capability maturation, assignment of FAA program management personnel, and the issuing of tasking.

Solving the equipage dilemma requires that the business case be closed for those that are required to equip. This business case will close with the delivery of procedures that take advantage of NextGen technical capability and the development of viable options for cost effective financing of required equipage.

This column is excerpted from a speech delivered by Steven R. Loranger, chairman, president and CEO of ITT Corp., Sept. 22 at the RTCA Fall Symposium, co-organized by Avionics.

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