|AIR TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT|
With about 1.8 billion people traveling by air every year, developing the global air transportation system of the future is a daunting challenge.
Boeing launched the Air Traffic Management business unit in November 2000 with just this goal in mind. Since its inception, ATM has made significant progress, signing its first contracts and development agreements with aviation authorities in the United States, China and The Netherlands. It also has completed integrated laboratory facilities at its Bellevue, Wash., and McLean, Va., sites as well as established offices in Brussels and Hong Kong to facilitate closer contact with customers and stakeholders in Europe and Asia.
From the outset, ''ATM made a conscious decision to work for global solutions,'' said John Hayhurst, president of the business unit, ''because an air traffic system that is globally interoperable is a system that is more efficient for airlines, for control personnel and for passengers.''
The challenge, Hayhurst added, is that different regions of the world face different challenges. In the United States, the main focus is on safety and security, particularly in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Although passenger numbers plummeted after the attacks, they are now recovering, and officials expect record-setting levels of air traffic—and the increase in congestion and delays they bring—to return in the future.
In much of Europe and Asia, safety is also a major concern, but another prominent issue is increasing the capacity and efficiency of the air traffic system while ensuring the environmental soundness of air travel. And, particularly within Asia, there are vast areas of land that currently have little or no air traffic control infrastructure.
Economic uncertainty, concerns over national sovereignty, and business and political rivalries further complicate these challenges. Bringing the various system stakeholders together to discuss needs and concerns and to work together to resolve differences and achieve solutions also requires a concerted effort.
Enter the Working Together process, a collaborative approach that Boeing used in the successful design, development and introduction of the 777 airplane.
The goal of the ATM Working Together Team is to build a consensus in the air traffic community on performance requirements for the next-generation global air traffic system. The strategy is to solicit input about the future system from the people and organizations that will be using it.
ATM's Working Together Team in the United States encompasses 39 stakeholder groups, including airlines, cargo carriers, the military, ground-based personnel such as controllers and dispatchers, and the general aviation community, among others. Despite oft-conflicting views, team members have continued meeting, because they recognize the importance of moving forward.
''A critical mass of opinions, not total consensus, was always one of our goals for the WTT process,'' Hayhurst said. ''The team's biggest job moving forward is to continue to find ways to balance the requirements of such a diverse set of stakeholders. Based on the collaborative spirit the team has displayed so far, I am confident they will continue working together to achieve this goal.''
And they have. After a series of meetings spanning several months, the Working Together Team published a System Performance Requirements Document, which contained more than 170 requirements for a future air traffic system.
The team members then reviewed and refined this list into a set of 16 cornerstones critical to a new system and published a revised document in September. Matt Vance, ATM's program manager for Working Together activities, said the 16 cornerstones represent the most critical stakeholder needs of a future air traffic system, set target levels of system performance, and establish a set of criteria by which to evaluate any future operational concept for air traffic management.
This fall, ATM adapted the WTT process for use in Europe. Representatives from ATM have been meeting with stakeholders throughout Europe, including airlines, government agencies, air service providers and professional associations. Boeing designed these meetings to create a dialogue on the European perspective on requirements for a future air traffic management system. Through the WTT dialogues, ATM has found similarities on both sides of the Atlantic. These synergies have given ATM representatives confidence that they can reach a common set of global standards.
''The positive interactions we have had with European stakeholders are clear evidence of their strong commitment to meeting the air system challenges they face,'' Vance said.
Boeing likely will initiate the WTT process on a third front—Asia—early next year, with the same goals as the North American and European teams. As each team generates and refines its list of system requirements a fuller picture of the optimal makeup of a globally interoperable air traffic system should begin to emerge. That information will enable ATM to develop an advanced and efficient system that balances the needs of all users and improves the flying experience for the passenger.
Industrialist Henry Ford once said, ''coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.'' The team at Air Traffic Management has learned the truth of this statement. And the success ATM Working Together activities will achieve—specifically, a dramatically improved global air transportation system—will have many positive benefits for Boeing, the aviation community and the flying public.
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