Monthly Archives: August 2008

Contract opportunity: ADS-B Air to Air Capabilities

An updated list of documents and requirements has been posted regarding the FAA’s project entitled:

“ADS-B Air to Air Capabilities – Acceleration of Surface Conflict Detection and Cockpit Alert Capabilities. Identification of Performance Requirements”

This will obviously be essential for the industry reps who are gathering on September 3 for a mini-trade show on this issue at FAA HQ. The final RFP is expected on September 10.

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On the record: Mixed reactions to Tuesday’s outage

The AP’s Joelle Tessler and Jordan Robertson filed a follow-up story Friday that includes a variety of quotes on the significance of Tuesday’s glitch at the FAA’s flight plan filing center in Georgia. A few excerpts:

“If this (FAA outage) happened at a power plant, I’d be telling them to open up their checkbook and expect to be fined,” said Jason Larsen, who spent five years at the Idaho National Laboratory examining electrical plants’ control systems before he became a security researcher for IOActive Inc.

Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association — a union that has been locked in a contract dispute with the FAA since 2006 — argues that the agency has tried to focus on future technology to deflect its lack of diligence in maintaining its current systems. Church pointed to the agency’s lack of a “safety net of redundancy” and its “fix-on-fail” policy, which means waiting for something to break before addressing a problem.

“It’s common. You see it in retail too. It’s the whole ‘don’t fix it if it ain’t broke’ thing,” said Branden Williams, director of a unit of VeriSign Inc., which assesses the security of retailers’ payment systems. “It’s unfortunate because it’s very reactive, and it typically winds up costing you more.”

Sid McGuirk, associate professor and coordinator of the air traffic management program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., believes that given the federal budget realities, the FAA has maintained a good balance. It keeps the system running efficiently without compromising safety, said McGuirk, a former air traffic controller and FAA manager. “From time to time, we are going to have a glitch, but it’s a tradeoff,” he said. 

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Near miss: Fresno

Runway incursion in Fresno, Skywest jet vs. Piper Malibu, came within 15 feet.

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AOPA’s Boyer cites JPDO in lobbying for a “special emphasis” on GA

It might be a slight stretch, but AOPA President Phil Boyer is claiming a shared vision with the JPDO over the future of America’s smaller GA airports. In an open letter to Acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell (press release), Boyer argues for a

special emphasis on preserving and improving America’s general aviation airports [and] increasing all-weather access to those airports

The release goes on to link the AOPA’s goals to statements from the JPDO about airport preservation:

Boyer noted that the Joint Planning and Development Office, which is leading efforts to implement the next generation air traffic control system, has identified the need to preserve the nation’s airport system and called on the FAA to do all it can to help the preservation effort.

“The FAA must build on this visionary work and focus resources on developing plans, policies, and budgets that not only preserve the airports that we have today, but also ensure their future through infrastructure investments.”

Boyer’s letter comes as the AOPA lobbies for changes to the current FAA Flight Plan, an annual document laying out the agencies road map for the next five years.

[Kudos to for their coverage.]

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Setting the stage for reauthorization: NextGen front and center

A comprehensive and fairly insider-ish article from Airport Business magazine, reporting from the AAAE Summer Legislative Issues Conference. It lays out the issues on the table as Congress prepares to consider reauthorization of key aviation legislation — including security, environmental regulation, and funding — that was drafted under the aegis of the FAA. Interesting to see the following at the very end of the article:

Daniel Elwell, assistant administrator for Aviation Policy, Planning and Environment at FAA, says that transforming the U.S. air traffic control system via NextGen is “the single biggest motivating factor” for the FAA proposal.

“NextGen is the singular goal of FAA,” he says.

Congress, meanwhile, is proposing a $25 per flight fee for instrument flights to pay for NextGen, a proposal that is getting resistance from general aviation groups.

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System failure delays ‘hundreds’ of flights

Reuters reports schedules are returning to normal after Tuesday’s 4.5-hour system failure of the in Hampton, GA.

The cause of the failure was not known but it was not due to a computer hacking attack, said Hank Krakowski, chief operations officer for the FAA’s air traffic division.

“It appears to be an internal software processing problem. We’re going to have to do some forensics on it,” he told reporters in a conference call.

Flight plans include information like the type of aircraft, destination and number of passengers.

The other flight-plan facility in Salt Lake City had to handle the entire country when the Atlanta system failed but the backup system quickly overloaded, [FAA spokeswoman Laura] Brown said.

“So what we had to do was dump all of the flight plan information that was in the system and then manually enter the people who were waiting to take off,” she said. “That’s what created the ripple effect throughout the system and created the delays that we had.”

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Everything you ever wanted to know about FDMS

If you want or need to understand the basic concepts underlying Flight Deck-based Merging and Spacing  (FDMS), you can’t do better than this document written by John Marksteiner and Randall Bone from the FAA’s FDMS development group. It’s comprehensive, clearly formulated, and really just plain fascinating. There’s too much good material to excerpt properly, but for anyone who hasn’t yet joined the FDMS gospel choir, here’s a few graphs that summarizes some fundamental goals:

The main objective of FDMS is to achieve consistent, low variance spacing between paired aircraft at the entry to an arrival procedure (e.g., Continuous Descent Arrival) and on final approach […]

Achieving the consistent, low variance spacing is expected to reduce the time interval between the first and last aircraft in the overall arrival flow which results in increased capacity. Overall efficiency should be increased through the avoidance of costly, low altitude maneuvering.

Other benefits may be realized through FDMS. Those include the following:

  • Reduction in radio frequency congestion;
  • Increased predictability of arrival traffic;
  • Increased ability to conduct CDA operations due to consistent, accurate spacing;
  • Sustained capacity during CDA operations;
  • Reduction in the number of controller issued maneuvering instructions;
  • Reduction in ATC workload, and potentially increased sector capacity, by allowing flight crews to conduct the spacing task;
  • Reduction in the number of go-arounds caused by less than desirable spacing.

What is not fully expressed in this graph is the long-term cost, noise and environmental savings that could be achieved if the majority (vast majority?) of scheduled flights were operated using CDA. At this month’s AAAE NextGen conference in Louisville, Capt. Christian Kast from UPS told us that in their initial FDMS trials, they found that they could reduce fuel consumption in the last 25 minutes of flight by an average of 21% for B757s and 31% for B767s.

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FAA’s Sturgell on NextGen: “We’re making solid progress”

A dispatch from Oshkosh, courtesy of Aero-News Network, quotes Acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell on NextGen:

“I can say that we’re making solid progress. The foundational technologies are either already in place or will be soon enough. They include WAAS, which provides increased airport access in reduced visibility conditions. We’ve published over 1,000 WAAS LPV procedures and we now have more of them than ILS procedures.

“RNP/RNAV are also making a difference. Look at what’s going on at DeKalb Peachtree Airport in Atlanta. The new RNP procedure will support IMC operations to runway 2R to a 340-foot decision height. This mitigates obstacles on the approach path and de-conflicts traffic flows around Peachtree and Hartsfield.”

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