Now available: “Fly NextGen” logo gear

Want to show off your love of aviation and your hopes for its future?
Now you can!
Fly NextGen is proud to offer t-shirts (in adult and kids sizes), caps, messenger bags, and baby apparel through the transitgear store.

Check out the following products:

black t-shirt green t-shirt white t-shirt navy shirt raspberry shirt navy bag gray bag black bag black knit cap red kids shirt blue one-piece for baby pink long-sleeve one-piece

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FAA mandates ADS-B out by 2020; GA not happy

The FAA this week released its final rule on ADS-B equipage in the mid-term, mandating ADS-B Out capability by 2020 for every aircraft using airspace where a transponder is currently required. Predictably, GA groups feel that they will be made to shoulder a large financial burden that ultimately will benefit airlines and air travelers rather than private pilots, although some concessions to general aviation were made in the final rule.

Some good resources to understand the consequences and subtleties of this rulemaking:

  • Article in Air Transport World here
  • Full text of rule here (via Federal Register)
  • ATA press release here
  • Analysis of costs/benefits to GA from AVweb here
  • AOPA press release here

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US Airways CEO: NextGen? No thanks.

US Airways CEO Doug Parker says his airline has no interest in equipping its fleet with NextGen technologies on its own dime. Parker was asked a question about ATC equipage at the carrier’s media day, and Air Transport World reported his answer as follows:

“There is not a capacity issue in the United States right now as it relates to air traffic control, so putting in place NextGen ATC, while it makes all the sense in the world, isn’t going to save the airlines dramatic amounts. . .So our position is so long as we have to pay for [flight deck equipment], we prefer not to have it.”

US Airways also questioned FAA’s capacity growth estimates, saying that it sees growth in the range of 1-2% per year over the next 10 years.

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FAA: Passenger demand to jump 75%, air cargo to nearly triple by 2030

FAA’s 20-year forecast for aviation demand is out. Some highlights:

  • Total passengers on U.S. airlines domestically and internationally are forecast to increase from 704 million in 2009 to 1.21 billion by 2030, a cumulative rise of 75%.
  • Domestic passenger enplanements will increase by 0.5 percent in 2010 and then grow an average of 2.5 percent per year during the remaining forecast period.
  • U.S. airlines will reach one billion passengers a year by 2023.
  • Total air cargo Registered Ton Miles (freight/express and mail) increase from 30.8 billion in 2009 to 86.6 billion in 2030 – up an average of 5.0 percent a year, for a cumulative rise of 281%.
  • Total operations at airports are forecast to decrease 2.7 percent to 51.5 million in 2010, and then grow at an average annual rate of 1.5 percent reaching 69.6 million in 2030.
  • At the nation’s 35 busiest airports, operations are expected to increase 60 percent from 2010 to 2030.

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Costello: Karlin Toner to replace Charlie Leader as head of JPDO

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  February 19, 2010

CONTACT:  David Gillies, Rep. Costello’s office


WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello (D-IL), Chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, issued the following statement today regarding the announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that Dr. Karlin Tonner has been appointed Director of the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO).  JPDO is responsible for coordinating the development and implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

“I welcome Dr. Tonner to this critical position and look forward to working with her.  JPDO’s mission is as important as any currently before the aviation community, and I remain concerned that it is not structured in a way that gives the Director the level of authority and access needed to be effective.  I will continue to evaluate this issue as we move ahead.  Ensuring the necessary inter-agency cooperation that NextGen requires is a very complicated managerial task and we need to get it right.  Secretary LaHood and Administrator Babbitt understand this, and I believe Dr. Tonner’s extensive experience at NASA will be very helpful.”

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Conference: “Beyond SOA and Cloud”

NextGen will be front and center at a fascinating one-day conference in Washington DC on February 10, 2010.

The event is called “Beyond SOA and Cloud: Next Generation Information Exchange in High Consequence Environments”, and is hosted by the DC chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

JPDO is collaborating with the event organizers and has contributed a case study focusing on NextGen.  Meanwhile, speakers will include Michael T. Jones (Google’s Chief Technology Advocate) as well as a number of leaders from the world of government IT (list here).

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Call for papers on crew/ground integration

Thanks to Guy Boy from the Florida Inst. of Technology for his heads-up about an interesting conference happening in late 2010.  HCI-Aero — a symposium organized under the auspices of the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition will be looking at the future of crew-ground interaction from both an aeronautics and a spaceflight perspective.  Many of the topics have great relevance to NextGen, i.e.:

  • Automation and authority distribution
  • Mission/trip planning and trajectory management
  • Interacting in a 4D world
  • UAV traffic integration
  • New concepts of operations, separation modes

hci_aero 2010

The call for papers and workshop/panel/demo proposals has just been published here; most submissions are due in April 2010.

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Visualizing NextGen concepts for a general audience

Airspace capacity estimator - 2030

As anyone who has ever tried to explain NextGen to friends or family knows, it’s not always easy to communicate NAS capacity issues to a lay audience.

I’ve gotten interested in how information graphics and rich web scripting tools can help make some of these concepts more approachable.  Here’s my first experiment, a simple app that allows you to play with factors that may contribute to capacity needs in 2030.

Move the sliders, and see how the factors affect passenger counts, ATC operations, delays, etc.

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EXPLAINER: Convective weather in the tropics

Bloomberg has a lengthy, general-interest article about the weather-related problems faced by aircraft flying between the northern and southern hemisphere (i.e. AF447):

Violent weather in the region can approximate the supercells that spawn tornadoes in the U.S., which exceed altitudes of 50,000 feet, NOAA’s [Pat] Slattery said.

“We are eons ahead in forecasting convective storms in the central part of the U.S. than we are in forecasting them in the tropics,” said National Weather Service’s [Jason] Tuell. “So much of it takes place over water in the tropics — over the Indian Ocean, Pacific and Atlantic — and there is just much less data available because of that.”

There is also a brief discussion of Honeywell’s “IntuVue” 3D weather radar product:

[Honeywell’s] three-dimensional systems, introduced less than three years ago, are in a small portion of the commercial aircraft fleet, said Chris Benich, director of aerospace regulatory affairs at the world’s largest maker of airplane controls. Among airlines using IntuVue are Cathay Pacific Airways, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines Ltd., while the U.S. Air Force uses it on C-17 cargo planes, according to a list provided by Honeywell. The cost for long-haul aircraft such as the Boeing 777 is about $335,000, said Bill Reavis, a Honeywell spokesman.

Most commercial planes are equipped with two-dimensional radar that requires pilots to manipulate it to get an accurate picture of the weather, Benich said.

“With older weather radars, pilots have difficulty accurately determining the top of significant weather,” Benich said.

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American’s ‘green’ test flight canceled; may be rescheduled

Last week, we reported AA’s plans to test fuel-saving measures using satellite navigation on a B767 flight from CDG to MIA.  According to the Dallas Morning News, that test was canceled due to mechanical problems with the plane.

On his “Airline Biz” blog, DMN reporter Eric Torbinson implies he has heard from the airline that the test will be attempted at a later date, but no source is explicitly cited.

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Utah lawmakers, NATCA resist ERAM test

From the Associated Press:

Utah’s two U.S. senators are urging the Federal Aviation Administration to hold off testing a new computer system at a Salt Lake City air traffic control center that guides planes across portions of eight states.

Republican Sens. Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch wrote FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt on June 11, asking him to delay a test of the new system at the Salt Lake Air Route Traffic Control Center. [..] “Safety concerns demand that ERAM (the computer system) not be implemented until it meets and exceeds the standards of reliability and stability of the system it replaces,” the senators wrote.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency has a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with the union representing air traffic controllers to discuss the test. She said agency officials still have confidence the test can take place as planned.

The test is scheduled from midnight to 4 a.m. on June 18, said Doug Pincock, an air traffic controller [and NATCA rep — ed.] in Salt Lake City. During that period the main computer system that the control center has used for nearly two decades will be switched off and the new system, known as En route Automation Modernization, will be switched on, Pincock said.

Further information: NATCA’s press release; FAA ERAM fact sheet; Text of letter to Randy Babbitt from Sens. Bennett and Hatch.

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FAA approves use of Flint Hills UAS in broader, but still restricted airspace

From the Associated Press:

Federal Aviation Administration officials have given approval for flights of an unmanned aerial vehicle near a National Guard range in central Kansas.

The approval means the Flint Hills Solutions Aerosonde UAV will be allowed to fly over Crisis City, which is part of the Great Plains Joint Training Center located near the Kansas National Guard’s Smoky Hill Weapons Range.

Involved with developing the UAV and its uses are Kansas State University, Flint Hills Solutions and the Salina Airport Authority.

The FAA approval, which was previously limited to the weapons range, allows for more extensive training in search and rescue operations through the Kansas National Guard and related agencies.

The Aerosonde is a 6-foot long, 35-pound, fixed-wing UAV that can fly for up to 12 hours, according to the manufacturer. For more on the Kansas National Guard’s plans for UAS and disaster response, see this article in the Wichita Eagle (published last April).

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NATCA: “We’re quite hopeful about NextGen”

The Dallas Morning News had a catch-all, general interest article about the status of NextGen. Here are some quotes:

Aviation consultant Michael Boyd: “Capt. Babbitt isn’t going to run the FAA – it is going to run him. I have no confidence this is going to work. The public is simply being bamboozled by the FAA about how this is working.”

NATCA spokesman Doug Church: “The new administration seems to want to include input from all the stakeholders. We’re quite hopeful about NextGen.”

Southwest Airlines EVP Ron Rocks: “We need the will to get this done. We need what they’re calling a World War II plan in Washington. We won that war in three or four years – that’s what we need for NextGen.”

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EXPLAINER: Everything you ever wanted to know about SESAR

Aviation Week’s David Esler has a very well-researched and in-depth article about SESAR, the European Union’s version of NextGen. It provides a lot of detail about how the two approaches differ (one example: NextGen implementation is being driven by the federal government, while SESAR is being driven by industry partnerships), and also examines questions of harmonization.

Interestingly, one of the key themes is “who’s further ahead?” See the following excerpt:

[On the topic of] who’s leading the parade toward 21st century ATM reform – both SJU [SESAR Joint Undertaking] and FAA solons diplomatically refused to describe themselves as ahead. Here’s what the SJU’s [Executive Director] Patrick Ky had to say: “We are maybe more advanced in how we want to organize our technical activities, whereas you in the United States are more advanced in the implementation of ADS-B. We have different contexts and different relationships with industry, but I think we are making sure with the FAA that we are moving in the same direction and fully in line with each other’s priorities.”

For the FAA perspective, we interviewed Steve Bradford, chief scientist of architecture and NextGen development. “That’s not accurate at all,” Bradford said when we queried whether the SJU was setting the pace in implementing ATM technology. “I’m not going to say we’re ahead, but we are spending money and have a full ADS-B implementation in progress and will have full service by 2013. And our new automation program, ERAM [En Route Automation Modernization], is ahead of schedule.”

We think any discussion of “who’s further ahead” is a bit like asking who’s winning a marathon at mile marker two.

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LAX gets runway status lights; system partially complete

From the Los Angeles Times:

Federal and local officials will unveil a new warning system today that is designed to stop runway incursions that for years have endangered planes taxiing to and from terminals at Los Angeles International Airport. [..]

[Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie] Lindsey said the Board of Airport Commissioners decided to pay for the warning system with airport revenue rather than wait for federal money — a move that allowed the signals to be installed almost three years earlier than they would have been.

Jon Russell, the western regional safety chairman for the Air Line Pilots Assn., said the new warning lights are a significant safety measure, but the devices need to be installed on all taxiways that intersect runways. He said lights were not put in some of the areas where close calls have occurred.

“This is a great starting point,” Russell said, “but the system is not complete.”

Given their budget constraints, FAA and LAX officials said they selected sites they thought had the greatest potential for collisions. If necessary, they said, lights can be added to other taxiways and runways in the future.

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Randy Babbitt: “NextGen is not moving fast enough”

At a speech before the RTCA, recently confirmed FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt offered some of his views on NextGen:

The only way we’re going to get rotation on this is by making sure the parties are at the table, making sure that their voices are heard. That’s the way I intend to keep it. Decisions made in a vacuum will bring the system to its knees. We’ve seen that before, and I have no desire to see us learn that lesson again.
We need constructive input. The FAA should not try to address policies or governing principles in a vacuum if we intend to maximize effectiveness. Policies can promote enhanced benefits, but we’ve got to craft them appropriately. The NextGen Implementation Task Force has more than 350 people involved, and the working groups have 280. That shows me that you’re willing to speak up, and from where I stand, that’s what we need. [..]

While I’m putting things out that, I’ve got to add this — NextGen is just flat out not moving fast enough. We must accelerate NextGen. I want more, and I want more faster. This administration has been unequivocal in its statements that the status quo just won’t go. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been flying since my sixteenth birthday, and the pilots and the people around them in this mix are eager to have things that advance safety and efficiency. I count myself in that group.

I’ve got to close with a couple of thoughts. One, NextGen is a clear priority. And let me say for the record that I’m interested in delivery. I have absolutely no plans to get involved with the arguments about NextGen or NowGen or then or when Gen. I’m not one for labels. When you boil all this down, and all the liquid is gone, the task at hand remains the same. We’ve got to make the system more efficient, and we’ve got to make it safer while doing it. Let’s face it. We don’t have the time to argue about what to call it. What we know is that Congress and the taxpayer want something now. I think they’re right to ask for it.

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What does AF447 crash mean for the future of oceanic communications and surveillance?

In the wake of the crash of the Air France A330 into the South Atlantic, a number of outlets have begun speculating on whether this could lead to a push for improved oceanic communications and surveillance. One summary comes from the Associated Press:

The plane’s disappearance has prompted calls for the U.S. and other countries to hasten the move to GPS-based networks that would pinpoint planes and enable air traffic controllers to monitor them as they cross the ocean outside radar-range.

“It does seem a little disconcerting for the public who have not been familiar with the lack of surveillance in oceans,” said Bill Voss, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation in Virginia. [..]

Voss believes that being able to better communicate with aircraft is more important from a safety point of view than surveillance. [..]

“This crash may put more pressure on international organizations to advance the use of satellite voice communications,” — technology that you would use when you hire a satellite phone to “go off to Antarctica or deepest darkest Africa,” said Voss.

The German news-weekly Spiegel had an in-depth article about issues related to in-flight data transmission:

If search teams fail to recover the flight recorder, which consists of two metal devices that record flight data and cockpit conversations, this question may never be answered. “It would be a real shame for aviation,” says Robert Francis, the former vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency that investigates aviation accidents in the United States. “If we want to avoid dramas like this in the future, we have to know what went wrong,” says the safety expert. For this reason, Francis wants to see all important flight data transmitted via satellite in the future, using ACARS technology. “This crash demonstrates how valuable this technology could be,” he says.

Significant upgrades to aircraft would not even be required, according to Francis. All that is needed, he says, is to reprogram the software in the communication system, turning it into a sort of online black box. Krishna Kavi, an engineer and professor at the University of North Texas in Denton, presented the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with a similar system 10 years ago. “The cost is low,” he says. For the 256 parameters recorded by a black box, Kavi came up with a volume of data requiring transmission of four to eight kilobits per second. “This is a fraction of what mobile wireless devices transmit today,” says Kavi. [..]

But transmission of flight data is expensive. It takes up satellite bandwidth. Former NTSB official Francis is familiar with these problems. But he argues that a constant flow of data during flight would not be absolutely necessary. “We would already gain a lot if the system would only transmit data the minute the aircraft entered an unusual situation,” he says. Experts with Germany’s Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Investigation in Braunschweig and the European Aviation Safety Agency in Cologne consider it “technically feasible” to report flight data on every flight to a central office via an online system. But pilots are the ones raising objections. “It would be tantamount to the full-scale monitoring of pilots,” says Jörg Handwerg of Cockpit, a German pilots’ association.

Safety expert Francis knows his proposal affects the personal rights of pilots. For this reason, he says, data would have to be encoded to prevent unauthorized individuals from listening in on radio communications. [..]
On the other hand, he says, nothing highlights the need for improved radio transmission of data than last week’s desperate search for wreckage from the downed Air France jet. According to Francis, ACARS should always transmit an aircraft’s position data, thus enabling rescue teams to search more effectively in an emergency.

“This crash demonstrates, in a drastic way, that we must improve our monitoring systems,” he says. In a world in which satellites perform monitoring and navigation tasks, says Francis, it should not be possible for aircraft to simply disappear.

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AA sees fuel savings “if we can get the regulators and rules out of the way”

In a Chicago Tribune article about Thursday’s AIRE demo flight, American Airlines captain and spokesman Brian Will had this to say:

“For years, we’ve had all this great equipment on the airplanes, but we are not able to use a lot of these things because of what essentially are speed bumps caused by an outdated air-traffic system,” said Brian Will, a Boeing 777 captain at American who is also the airline’s technical programs manager. “This flight from Paris’ Charles De Gaulle to Miami International will show what can be accomplished — several thousands of pounds of fuel saved on that one flight — if we can get the regulators and the rules out of the way,” Will said. [..]

“Airplanes using GPS can report their real-time position anywhere on the planet with accuracy of 20 feet,” Will said. “We have the tools today and really shouldn’t be forced to wait until 2020.”

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American Airlines flying CDG-MIA demo under AIRE initiative

From the Miami Herald:

Thursday’s flight will use GPS signals virtually all the way, instead of conventional ground-based radio navigation beacons. A similar Paris-Miami flight by Air France is scheduled for Tuesday, according to the FAA — but the French airline could not be reached for comment.

Brian Will, an American Airlines captain, described the event as a gate-to-gate demonstration flight in which the airline and air traffic control in Europe and the United States will coordinate new technical capabilities and ”tailored arrival” procedures in which aircraft descend at reduced power from cruising altitude to approach without leveling off at intermediate altitudes — the traditional step-down method.

The air traffic controllers union is skeptical.

”The FAA has gone to great lengths to advertise NextGen as the panacea to all issues involving our enormous air traffic control system,” Jim Marinitti, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association Local MIA, and Mitch Herrick, the local’s vice president, said in a statement. “The event scheduled for this week with the American Airlines aircraft is simply a publicity stunt. The flight will be using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology that we have been using for years.” [..]

American Airlines said the flight is part of AIRE, an initiative stemming from the Europe/U.S. Open Skies treaty. AIRE stands for Atlantic Interoperability Initiative to Reduce Emissions, a joint project involving the FAA, the European Commission and several global airlines to speed application of new technologies and procedures to reduce noise and carbon emissions.

Other sources: Associated Press wire, AA press release.

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Terrafugia ‘flying car’ completes initial flight testing

From Flightglobal:

Light aircraft developer Terrafugia has completed flight-testing of its proof-of-concept aircraft, the Transition, three months after the two-seat light sport aircraft took to the skies for the first time.

The “roadable” aircraft – dubbed the Flying Car – made 29 flights, says Woburn, Massachusetts-based Terrafugia “and has now completed the first of a four-stage process to bring the Transition into production”.

The second phase of development is under way, with work on the beta prototype already in progress. First deliveries are earmarked for 2011.

Some pictures from the manufacturer’s website:

Terrafugia_Takeoff-thumb terrefugia POCFlightImg204G TransitionRoad

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