ATM Modernization, Business & GA, Commercial

A Partnership with Portent

By David Jensen | July 1, 2000
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Airways Corp. of New Zealand Ltd. (ANZ) and Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management (LMATM) recently signed an agreement that may well have greater significance than its stated purpose of establishing a 10-year partnership. The Rockville, Md.-based manufacturer of air traffic management (ATM) equipment and New Zealand’s commercialized air traffic services provider signed the agreement May 8 at LMATM’s headquarters. (The agreement also was signed four days earlier, at Christchurch, home of New Zealand’s primary center for domestic air traffic control.)

The agreement launches a program to modernize New Zealand airspace management and to establish a technology center. The center is to "support the partners’ shared vision of global air traffic management," according to an LMATM release.

That shared vision–which, incidentally, is one also shared by many others in the air traffic management industry–foresees a worldwide "rationalization" of ATM services, according to Don Antonucci, president of LMATM. "Within 10 years, we expect air traffic management to be provided on a global basis by four to six alliances," he says. "The shift from land-based to satellite-based services will facilitate this rationalization."

Quite simply, officials at both ANZ and LMATM hope their partnership will incite one of those alliances. During the agreement’s signing, both Antonucci and Craig Sinclair, ANZ’s chief executive (speaking by phone from New Zealand) mentioned the possibility of expanding their partnership to include the UK’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS)–especially if NATS becomes privatized. The combined expertise of these three entities would then be offered to other countries that need modernized ATM systems. And, in turn, this could expand the alliance even more.

NATS’ inclusion makes sense. Lockheed Martin has had an ongoing working relationship with NATS as prime contractor for the new area and terminal control center in Swanwick. It recently won the contract to also provide radar data processing and a display system for NATS’ Scottish area control center in Prestwick, Scotland.

The ANZ-LMATM partnership appears to be a good fit. Antonucci pointed to ANZ’s "proven commercial and operational expertise." Craig notes, "We wanted [to partner with] someone with the distribution and production skills of Lockheed Martin."

Referring to his country’s ATC modernization effort, Craig adds, "Our objective was to avoid the conventional tender-bidding system. We wanted to work together and form a powerful team."

Despite speculation surrounding ANZ’s and LMATM’s "shared vision," the two organizations must first focus on some concrete projects. One is to accomplish New Zealand’s 10-year modernization plan, which includes installing Lockheed Martin’s SkyLine air traffic management system and new communications gear in three area control centers and 17 towers. New Zealand has ATC centers Christchurch, Auckland and Ohakea. Ohakea, on New Zealands’ north island, serves primarily as a backup to the Christchurch center, which controls domestic traffic. Auckland is New Zealand’s oceanic air traffic control center. The SkyLine system is scheduled to be operational in New Zealand in the late 2002/early 2003 timeframe.

Along with a new ATM system, the ANZ/LMATM agreement calls for the establishment of a center in Christchurch for software development, operational testing, and controller training. The center will help the ANZ develop and implement its ATC modernization plan, but also will be offered to serve other service providers. "We will work cooperatively with Airways New Zealand for markets [for the center] around the world," Antonucci says.

Neither Antonucci nor Craig would provide details of the their partnership’s financial arrangement. Craig would only say, "We will assess each opportunity, and each one will be structured according to the nature of the opportunity."

The new engineering/training center in Christchurch is scheduled to be in operation by March 2001. Antonucci says LMATM will initially "station one key engineer there and send additional people to Christchurch as needed." The center will begin operation with a total of three to four engineers, Craig adds. Both officials believe the center will be ideal for ATM software development because the engineers "will work close to where the software will be used," says Antonucci.

The ANZ/LMATM partnership is not just focused on modernization in New Zealand, however. In fact, the two organizations allied themselves previously, in September 1999, to compete in the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) program to replace the U.S. oceanic control system.

Here, ANZ brings to the table its experience from being the first service to establish an oceanic system with highly computerized workstations and satellite technology. New Zealand’s new oceanic center, in Auckland, has been operational since 1995 but has since begun transitioning to an enhanced configuration, which includes new workstations and more automation.

New Zealand’s enhanced oceanic system represents the basic system Lockheed Martin and ANZ plans to offer the FAA, which has a need to modernize its three oceanic centers, in New York, N.Y., Oakland, Calif., and Anchorage, Alaska.

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