Editor's Note

Industry Scan

By Jonathan Ray | April 1, 2011
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SESAR Validation

The public-private entity charged with developing the Single European Sky vision will conduct 29 validation projects in Europe this year with the aim of introducing “pre-industrial” procedures, policies and products of the future European air-traffic management (ATM) system.

Executives of the Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) described the SESAR “first release” March 8 at the ATC Global conference in Amsterdam. The validation projects will span the broad areas of “green” terminal airspace operations; four-dimensional (4D) trajectories; end-to-end traffic synchronization and collaborative network management.

The first-release grouping resulted from a review of the status of 300 active SESAR work projects, to determine where early results could be achieved.

“The aim of the release really is to put together the final results of research and development, to bring to the community the results in terms of pre-industrialization solutions,” said Florian Guillermet, SESAR JU chief program officer.

“Then a decision has to be made (as to) whether they are going to be deployed or not. … We have to control the expectations to a certain extent. We have, as well, to remain humble with this first release. It’s the very first time we are doing an activity like this in Europe.”

There will be 16 specific operational focus areas addressed by the 29 projects, such as Optimized Required Navigation Performance Structures; Point Merge in Complex Terminal Control Area; and initial 4D capability plus Controlled Time of Arrival. A second release in 2012 will be more aggressive in terms of the number and types of activities, Guillermet said.

“This delivery activity is something that we intend not only to start this year, but to continue on a yearly basis in the program, and that’s how the R&D activities are going to deliver the results in the future,” he said.


Direction on the use of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) In and Data Communications will be forthcoming this year and in 2012, according to FAA’s latest NextGen Implementation Plan (NGIP) update, released in March.

The initial recommendations of an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) formed last year to look into the application of ADS-B In are due to FAA this fall, according to the NGIP.

“Those findings are expected to provide a clear definition on how the aviation community should proceed with ADS-B In, while ensuring compatibility with the ADS-B Out avionics standards detailed in the ADS-B Out final rule published in May 2010,” FAA said. The latter rule mandates ADS-B Out capability by 2020.

Feedback to the ARC recommendations will be incorporated in an ARC final report due by June 2012, FAA said.

“The ARC’s work will set the stage for future ADS-B In applications, such as spacing and merging aircraft using flight deck interval management,” the agency said. “This capability provides more precise aircraft-to-aircraft position information to the flight deck, enabling flight crews to line up their aircraft more efficiently on final approach, saving fuel and maximizing runway capacity.”

FAA said it is “moving ahead” with Data Communications development that will enable the exchange of digital air-traffic control information between controllers and pilots, and direct auto-load into aircraft flight management systems.

The agency said a final investment decision slated for 2012 will enable it to contract with a vendor to provide the VHF radio network that will carry Data Comm messages.

Airport towers are expected to begin offering departure clearances with revisions to Future Air Navigation System (FANS) 1/A+ equipped aircraft by 2015, according to FAA. Enroute centers are expected to be capable of issuing airborne reroutes via Data Comm in 2018.

“This planning date has been adjusted out two years as we continue to weigh the complexity of integrating enhancements into the National Airspace System as well as budget adjustments,” FAA said.

FAA, EU Accord

The European Union and FAA signed a memorandum of cooperation March 3 in the field of civil aviation research and development, and a first annex covering “cooperative activities and interoperability aspects” of the SESAR and NextGen air-traffic modernization programs.

The agreement was signed during a high-level conference in Budapest organized by the Hungarian Presidency and European Commission.

“The conference focused on identifying tangible measures to finalize implementation of the Single European Sky,” according to a summary. “Substantial benefits are expected from enhanced cooperation between the European bodies involved in air-traffic management as well as from the extension of the Single European Sky to non-EU states.”

Carey Fagan, FAA executive director for international affairs, signed the memorandum of cooperation for the U.S. Pal Volner, state secretary for transport for Hungary, and Siim Kallas, EU vice president and commissioner for transport and mobility, signed on behalf of the EU.

The agreement calls for both sides to research the interoperability of avionics, communication protocols and procedures, as well as operational methods under SESAR and NextGen.

ADS-B Second Supplier

Selex Systems Integration Inc., Overland Park, Kan., announced the award of a contract from ITT Corp., as the second source radio supplier for ITT’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system rollout.

Under the contract, Selex will deliver more than 400 radios during a three-year performance period. The radio is intended for use in both ADS-B and multilateration (MLAT) applications. The contract includes options for additional units and for extended depot maintenance support over the service life of the radios.

ITT in August 2007 was selected by FAA to provide a nationwide ADS-B ground infrastructure consisting of 794 ground-based transceivers. As part of the ITT industry team, Thales North America’s Air Traffic Management business in Shawnee, Kan., was selected as the first supplier of dual-link 1090 MHz and UAT transceivers under a three-year, $40 million contract.

Last October, ITT said it successfully completed the first segment of the ADS-B contract following the implementation of “critical services,” including the display of down-linked ADS-B targets on controller displays, at key sites in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, Louisville and Philadelphia. The company also installed 300 of the ground-based terminals, clearing the way for the segment 2 phase of the contract.

Selex Systems Integration is a wholly owned subsidiary of Selex Sistemi Integrati, SpA, of Italy. The ADS-B radios will be manufactured in Overland Park.

‘Save GPS’ Coalition

Aviation industry associations and manufacturers were among initial members of the “Coalition to Save Our GPS,” formed to oppose the application by LightSquared LLC to use L-band spectrum for a new nationwide broadband service.

Joining the coalition, announced March 10 in Washington, D.C., were the Aeronautical Repair Stations Association, Air Transport Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Garmin and General Aviation Manufacturers Association, among companies and organizations from other industries.

The coalition cites the “highly unusual decision” by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in January to issue a conditional waiver to LightSquared to use L-Band spectrum adjacent to that of GPS, potentially interfering with millions of GPS receivers.

The FCC waiver allows LightSquared to use spectrum in the 1525-1559 MHz band for broadband transmissions if the company can demonstrate that harmful interference will be avoided. The GPS system operates in the 1559-1610 MHz band.

“The usual FCC process of conducting extensive testing followed by approvals was not followed in this instance. Instead, the process was approve first, then test,” the GPS coalition stated.

It calls for FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to ensure LightSquared’s license modification is contingent on the outcome of a mandated study that is “comprehensive, objective and based on correct assumptions about existing GPS uses rather than theoretical possibilities.”

VDL Mode 2

Air transport communications provider SITA announced March 7 that its VHF Digital Link Mode 2 (VDL Mode 2) service is now available to airlines in the United States.

SITA said it has added VDL radios to 50 of the 300 VHF ACARS station sites in the United States already used by some U.S. airlines. The VDL coverage expansion provides SITA customer airlines that have installed VDL radios with a 20-fold increase in link capacity for ACARS, the company said.

SITA has been FAA’s Oceanic data communications service provider since 1999. Its service supports air-traffic control systems based at Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs) at Oakland, Anchorage and Ronkonkoma, N.Y. as part of the Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures (ATOP) and Flight Data Processing-2000 systems.

VDL Mode 2 communications will be required under FAA’s NextGen Data Comm program, SITA said.

“SITA has been working on the VDL services the FAA requires since ICAO VDL standardization was first launched,” said Philip Clinch, SITA Vice President Aircraft Services. “The VDL definition took advantage of emerging digital radio technology to increase link capacity by a factor of 20 compared to the VHF ACARS link which has been available up to now. Our VDL investment U.S.-wide shows the FAA and the aircraft operators that SITA has the VDL network in place and ready for when aircraft are equipped to use the FAA Data Comm services.”

Flight Tracking

Available avionics used in flight-tracking applications, coupled with new procedures, would provide improved aircraft tracking in oceanic and remote airspace.

These are recommendations of the Oceanic Position Tracking Improvement & Monitoring (OPTIMI) project, conducted in the aftermath of the loss of Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean in June 2009. The project was conducted under the auspices of the Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU), the public-private entity overseeing Europe’s SESAR air-traffic modernization program.

According to the SESAR JU, the project included in-flight demonstrations involving commercial flights in the North Atlantic, European and African regions of the Atlantic Ocean. The objective was to assess the value of using existing Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Contract (ADS-C) services and Controller-Pilot Datalink Communications (CPDLC), in combination with new procedures and protocols, to improve flight tracking. Products of the Future Air Navigation System (FANS) concept developed by Boeing and Airbus for long-haul aircraft, ADS-C involves the downlink of aircraft position reports controlled by a ground station; CPDLC is the exchange of data messages between pilots and controllers.

“The consortium carrying out the project on behalf of the SJU recommended on a technological level to encourage the equipage and use of Future Air Navigation System products for Oceanic Area Control Centers and aircraft flying oceanic areas; this will cover in particular ADS-C and CPDLC,” the SESAR JU reported.

“At the same time, improvements of procedures should be envisaged with the automatic transmission of the aircraft position in oceanic and remote areas in an interval of 15 minutes. An automatic transmission of the position should be triggered whenever a deviation from the planned route is detected.”

Stated Jose Calvo Fresno, SESAR JU chief of Regulatory Affairs, “The OPTIMI study shows that the technical elements to improve aircraft tracking are already available. It is now important to make full use of this technology by proposing the necessary regulatory changes.”

Based on the final report of the consortium, the SESAR JU will propose regulatory “initiatives” to the European Commission in the first half of 2011. “There are several possibilities, from a purely prescriptive approach, in line with datalink regulation, to the use of incentive mechanisms exploring the performance scheme,” the organization said.


ANSP Communications

Members of Functional Airspace Block-Europe Central (FABEC), consisting of the Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland, signed a 10-year framework agreement with SITA to provide an air/ground communication infrastructure.

The agreement, announced March 8 at the ATC Global conference in Amsterdam, will enable FABEC to meet the European Union’s 2013 deadline for implementation of controller-pilot datalink communications (CPDLC) across Europe, SITA said. The airspace controlled by the FABEC ANSPs covers 55 percent of European air traffic.

SITA said the communication infrastructure will support Aeronautical Telecommunications Network (ATN) protocol and VHF Digital Link Mode 2 (VDL Mode 2). The scope of agreement includes VHF ground stations, SITA’s Aircom Monitoring System (AMOS) to supervise the equipment and test tools.

SITA said it is teaming with EGIS Avia of France to provide ProATN routers to FABEC. The agreement also includes the sharing of the air/ground infrastructure, allowing SITA to provide operational communications to airlines.

The FABEC agreement adds to existing relationships between SITA and ANSPs in Germany, Portugal and Spain for ATN and VDL Mode 2.


G1000H Cockpit

Garmin International on March 6 unveiled the G1000H integrated glass cockpit for VFR Part 27 helicopters carrying up to nine passengers. Bell Helicopter, launch customer for the avionics suite, will install the G1000H on its Bell 407GX.

Leveraging features of its G1000 fixed-wing counterpart, the G1000H integrates control and presentation of most flight data, sensor and instrument functions on large, high-resolution displays.

Optional features include Garmin’s Helicopter Synthetic Vision Technology (HSVT), Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System (HTAWS), GDL 69AH weather display and GSR 56H Iridium datalink, the company said.

Garmin also announced that it has initiated work to obtain a supplemental type certificate for installation of the Garmin G500H glass cockpit in the Robinson R44 four-place, piston-engine helicopter.


Multispectral Sensor

Northrop Grumman completed installation and testing of a multispectral intelligence sensor housed in a new keel beam accessory (KAB) bay on a modified E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft.

The installation and test examined the use of the 500-pound MS-177 multispectral camera, to see how the sensor enhances combat identification in support of Joint STARS’ battle management role.

While in test flights off the coast of Florida, Joint STARS operators tasked the MS-177 sensor to collect information and streamed data into the battle management system already in place. Joint STARS operators were able to simultaneously exploit ground moving target indication (GMTI) and high-resolution imagery. Images also were transmitted to off-board SIPRNET elements using beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) satellite communications.

“Flight tests on the Joint STARS testbed aircraft proved the KAB, located directly behind the APY-7 radar, can support an additional large sensor, or multiple small sensors with no impact to the system’s current battle management command and control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability,” said Mike Mos, Northrop Grumman director of Joint STARS architectures and concept demonstrations.

Engineering Center

Boeing started hiring engineers and other staff for its new engineering design center in Oklahoma City that will produce upgrades of the C-130 Hercules and B-1 Lancer aircraft, including new cockpits.

The company announced last August that programs will begin to transition from Long Beach, Calif., to Oklahoma City. The transition will shift 550 jobs to Oklahoma City by the end of 2012 and create 150 open positions this year, Boeing said.

Recruiting is targeted at engineering disciplines, including embedded software, structural, design and analysis; wire design and installation; and systems. Business support jobs for the C-130 and B-1 programs also are available, including business planning and supply chain positions. Jobs are posted at http://jobs-boeing.com/okc

The Oklahoma City center includes 50,000 square feet of space that is being remodeled to accommodate the C-130 workers who will begin arriving in April.


UAS Refueling

A “major step forward” in demonstrating autonomous refueling between two unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) at high altitude has been accomplished.

Northrop Grumman announced March 9 that its Proteus test aircraft and a NASA Global Hawk flew as close as 40 feet apart at an altitude of 45,000 feet during a risk-reduction test flight Jan. 21. Participating with Northrop Grumman in the demonstration were the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, located in Edwards, Calif.

DARPA’s $33 million KQ-X program will demonstrate autonomous fuel transfer between two Global Hawks, enabling flights of up to one-week endurance. KQ-X follows the 2006 DARPA Autonomous Aerial Refueling Demonstration (AARD), a joint effort with NASA Dryden that used an F-18 fighter as a surrogate unmanned aircraft to autonomously refuel through a probe and drogue from a Boeing 707 tanker.

Northrop Grumman said the January demonstration flight was key to reducing risks as the program prepares for autonomous aerial refueling of two Global Hawks in the spring of 2012.

Wake turbulence between the Proteus and Global Hawk aircraft as well as engine performance and flight control responsiveness in the stratosphere were evaluated. Simulated breakaway maneuvers were also conducted, the company said.

BAMS Design Review

Northrop Grumman said it conducted a critical design review of the MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System (BAMS) with the U.S. Navy in February.

The MQ-4C system CDR, which was preceded by 10 subsystem and segment CDRs, sets the initial product baseline for the MQ-4C, a marinized version of the U.S. Air Force RQ-4B Global Hawk. Changes to the RQ-4B include a stronger wing, an ice protection system and a sensor suite based on components or entire systems already fielded in the Department of Defense inventory.

The program’s next major milestone, Test Readiness Review, is planned this fall.

The first two fuselages of the BAMS System Development and Demonstration phase are under construction at Northrop Grumman’s Moss Point, Miss., facility. The first fuselage was slated to ship in April to the company’s Palmdale, Calif., manufacturing center for final assembly and first flight in 2012.

The BAMS program is managed by the Navy’s Program Executive Office, Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (PMA-262) at NAS Patuxent River, Md.

New U.S. Departures Terminal Dedicated At Bahamas Gateway Airport

NASSAU, The Bahamas – Bahamian government and airport officials on Feb. 26 celebrated the completion of a new United States Departures Terminal at Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA), describing the facility as key to the economic revitalization of The Bahamas.

Completion of the 247,000-square-foot U.S. Departures Terminal is the signature achievement of the first phase of a planned, three-phase redevelopment costing $409.5 million. The terminal provides customs preclearance for outbound flights to the United States, allowing them to operate as domestic flights upon arrival at their destinations. It began operations in March.

With the completion of second and third phases of the redevelopment in 2012-2013, the airport will have capacity to serve 5 million passengers annually; it served 3.2 million in 2008.

“Today, we are definitely on our way to realizing the long-deferred national aspiration for an attractive, modern and efficient principal air gateway to The Bahamas,” Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham told a crowd of 2,000 gathered for the opening ceremony. “This is befitting of our status as the premier destination in our region.”

In an interview after the ceremony, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, Minister of Tourism and Aviation, said LPIA serves as the hub for other major islands of The Bahamas. “If Nassau/Paradise Island in The Bahamas was a country by itself, it would be No. 4 in terms of total air arrivals, it would be No. 2 in terms of total visitors, and it’s No. 1 in cruise passengers,” he said. “But Nassau/Paradise Island is only 2 percent of The Bahamas. So 98 percent of the country has not been developed as yet.”

The plan is to grow intra-Bahamas air travel, Vanderpool-Wallace said. “What you will be shocked to hear is we have on the order of eight scheduled airlines operating in The Bahamas today,” he said. “The problem is that a lot of them are not connected to the global distribution system, so people from elsewhere cannot book them directly, and we’re working to fix that.”

Stage 2 of the LPIA redevelopment will see renovation of the existing U.S. departures terminal, which will serve as a new International Arrivals Terminal opening in 2012. Stage 3 involves the design and construction of a 112,000-square-foot domestic arrivals and departures terminal, as well as an International Departures Terminal. The last facilities will open in 2013.

The Nassau Airport Development Company is overseeing the LPIA project, which is managed by Vancouver Airport Services of Canada. Among other projects, the latter company managed a $120 million expansion of Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica, completed in 2009.

The LPIA redevelopment will result in 585,000 square feet of terminal space, a 21 percent increase over the current footprint. The project includes 34 new gates, with one capable of handling the Airbus A380. — Bill Carey

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