ATM Modernization, Business & GA, Commercial, Military

Editor’s Note: Talk of Change And a Goodbye

By David Jensen | December 1, 2005
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ARINC’s Oishi set the tone for this year’s Airline Elecronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) meeting when, in his welcoming remarks in the event’s pocket guide, he noted the many changes taking place in the air transport market. Citing such new developments as public desire for point-to-point air travel, the possible proliferation of unmanned air vehicles in civil airspace, and passenger preference for e-mail, Internet and cell phone access while in the air, I echoed Roy’s sentiment in my opening remarks for the AEEC/Avionics Magazine symposium, held in conjunction with the annual committee meeting.

The thought of dramatic change in the aviation industry later prompted me to thumb through past issues of Avionics Magazine–as far back as March 1999, when I first became editor. It was enlightening, especially considering that my arrival preceded the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Y2K scare.

In some instances change has come slowly over the past six years. For example, in my April 1999 Editor’s Note, I commented on the Johns Hopkins "GPS Risk Assessment Study," which warned of satellite navigation’s vulnerability to interference and jamming. Some of today’s receivers are more resistant to such risks, and GPS L5 satellites and Europe’s planned Galileo satnav system will greatly reduce these risks. But they still exist, and there is no foolproof solution.

In other instances change is much more noticeable. In my May 1999 column, I commented on the importance of flight operations quality assurance (FOQA) and encouraged operators to gather and share flight operations data to improve flight safety. I quoted the Swiss author, Henri Amiel, who wrote, "Knowledge is the emancipation from error." In this issue, we cover FOQA (page 26), highlight advances that make data access and analysis more efficient, and note that Air Canada is joining the list of operators using FOQA.

And in still other instances, change has been quite dramatic. For example, in my November 1999 column I wrote of automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) and the Cargo Airline Association’s (CAA’s) scramble to prove the technology’s worth as a means to prevent midair collisions. CAA wanted ADS-B to be a possible substitute to the more expensive traffic alert collision avoidance system (TCAS) that FAA was threatening to mandate on cargo planes. I observed that a TCAS requirement, while improving safety, might stunt further development of a promising new technology. Well, TCAS is required on cargo aircraft, and I’ve been proven wrong; ADS-B has made significant progress and been shown to satisfy a variety of applications. In last month’s column (page 6) I was able to report that FAA has selected ADS-B as a preferred option for surveillance in U.S. airspace, and plans to advance the technology. Progress in ADS-B joins progress in other technologies, such a data link, enhanced and synthetic vision, and satnav augmentation, to name just a few. Civil aviation truly is witnessing change.

Why this nostalgic review of old Editor’s Notes and comments on change? It’s my way of announcing change within Avionics magazine, my new role, and that this will be the last time I write the Editor’s Note. The editorship of this publication is being passed on to Charlotte Adams, who has been the magazine’s senior editor for the past three years. She brings much to the table, including experience at Defense News, the Navy League’s Sea Power magazine and Military & Aerospace Electronics. Regular readers of this magazine recognize Charlotte’s ability to make the most complicated topics comprehensible to a wide audience. As aircraft become more and more digitized, software-driven and complex, this capability will become increasingly important, and appreciated.

As for me, I plan to play a lesser role with Avionics magazine. Never wanting to quit anything "cold turkey," I plan to enter semiretirement, serving mainly as a contributor to the publication. My photo will no longer be at the top of this page, but my byline will continue to appear on feature stories. I look forward to continued involvement with an industry I have covered for nearly 25 years. My aviation journalism experience has been rewarding, enabling me not only to document the industry’s many advances, but also to interact with those who make those advances possible.

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