ATM Modernization, Business & GA, Commercial

Editor’s Note: Topics We’ve Emphasized

By David Jensen | October 1, 2000

I admit it. We’ve given Europe’s air traffic management (ATM) problems and the efforts by Eurocontrol to resolve those problems a lot of ink lately in our Global Airspace section. And this month we’ve emptied another barrel to print two more articles, one on Eurocontrol’s new controller-pilot data link communication (CPDLC) development (see page 53) and another, an interview, with Eurocontrol’s ATM strategy and concept manager (see page 56). These latest articles follow earlier stories about Europe’s requirements for regional airline avionics (May 2000, page 40), Europe preparing for RVSM (July 2000, page 29), and Europe’s struggle with summer delays (August 2000, page 24).

Enough already, you may say.

Well, in future months, as in the past, we plan to cover ATM activities all around the world and involving various agencies. But in truth, Europe is where ATM problems and the need to modernize air traffic management is most pressing. These factors have thrust Eurocontrol into the forefront of ATM modernization. Thus, it has become the agency to watch.

Consider, for example, that at this year’s Farnborough Air Show, Boeing estimated that the world fleet of commercial airliners will more than double by 2019, reaching close to 32,000 aircraft. Though much of the growth is expected to be in Asia and Latin America, most of the aircraft still will be delivered to Europe and North America. And wherever the aircraft are delivered, you can bet that many of the long haulers from around the world will be entering European airspace.

In that vein, the annual problem of flight delays is rapidly becoming a summer tradition in Europe. The problem erupted in Europe in the early 1980s to the point that the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) found need to establish a Center Office for Delay Analysis (CODA), operated by Eurocontrol.

The agency is encouraged by the fact that the delay rate during this year’s first five months was no worse than the same period in 1998. Eurocontrol’s optimism is understandable, considering the 15% increase in air traffic in Europe since ‘98, a jump much greater than authorities had projected. All told, the number of flights controlled in the ECAC area stood at 3.36 million between January and May 2000–and that sizeable number represents the period prior to Europe’s peak travel season.

So, European authorities have a big job ahead of them, and Avionics Magazine, through its Global Airspace section, will continue to monitor closely the continent’s progress–program by program–in modernizing its ATM system and resolving its air traffic problems.

More on Spectrum

And, you may say "enough already" on my comments on the spectrum issue. In both the May and September issues, I’ve devoted this space to the very critical debate over spectrum allocation, especially as it impacts satellite navigation.

But I offer no apology. In fact, I assure you that we will continue to cover potential encroachment on the GPS bandwidth, especially by some (not all) elements in the ultra-wideband (UWB) community. "The battle continues," as I said in my last column, and it is a battle of which we need to remain informed.

Lobbying efforts by UWB product manufacturers are nothing if not persistent. Last month I mentioned Time Domain, an Alabama firm that lobbied to allow the production of a UWB product that can see through walls. Since then, a copy of a letter crossed my desk from U.S. Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-Wisc.) to William Kennard, chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and Greg Rhode, administrator for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The letter urged the FCC to "swiftly approve the application of the Kohler Company’s request for a waiver of the FCC’s rules to allow Kohler to import and market its ventilating toilet kit." Using ultrawideband, this kit will "automatically ventilate and eliminate bathroom odors," according to the letter.

Yes, we love odor-free toilets. Who wouldn’t? But to potentially place our delicate sense of smell above air safety shows a grave misplacement of our priorities. Not that odor-free toilets would interfere with GPS signal. We don’t know–and there-in lies the problem: The money and time needed to determine the affects of UWB products from thorough testing may well be a matter of too-little-too-late; the deadline for the FCC notice of proposed rulemaking, which would establish guidelines for UWB products, is Oct. 31.

Still, the bandwidth battle will continue beyond this month. And so will the battle’s impact on GPS, the foundation for future air navigation. Which is why we plan to include in Avionics Magazine early next year an in-depth report on ultrawideband’s impact. Stay tuned.

Correction

It’s what keeps editors up at nights. Note the bags under my eyes. In our September issue, somehow in the production of our interview with Karen Schipper, we inadvertently misspelled her name. Karen is the president of the World Airline Entertainment Association, and a gracious person who, we hope, will accept our apology.

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