Boeing Frontiers
June 2002 
Volume 01, Issue 02 
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Air Traffic Management
Ready for a new approach

Boeing’s Washington, D.C., office and ATM partner to promote new air traffic management concept

The Sept. 11 attack on the United States created an unprecedented need to improve the safety and security of the U.S. and world air transportation systems as quickly as possible. The Boeing Company is lending its expertise and experience to this effort in many ways, including through one of its newest business units, Air Traffic Management.

ATM was established in November 2000 to increase the capacity, efficiency, safety and security of the air transportation system. The satellite-based system Boeing has proposed includes flight planning based on trajectory information, which would enable air traffic managers to predict where an airplane will be further into the future and with more precision than ever before.

It also includes a common information network that would allow dynamic revision of flight paths and calls for a redesign of the airspace structure that would allow development of more strategic, less repetitive operating procedures.

The proposed satellite-based system“The Boeing ATM concepts were originally focused on increasing system capacity,” said John Hayhurst, president of Boeing ATM, “but there were always tremendous security enhancements in our system. Because of that, the shift toward safety and security after Sept. 11 did nothing more than propel our concepts to the forefront of the discussion.”

Security advantages of the proposed ATM concept include data link communications with sophisticated encryption algorithms. Authorized parties also would have instant access to the same up-to-date information, enabling rapid collaborative decision making in times of crisis, even among geographically dispersed decision makers.

As envisioned, the highly computerized system could immediately respond to a security concern — such as the restriction of airspace access around a sports stadium due to a terrorist threat — by safely rerouting aircraft and automatically updating flight plans to comply.

Generating the momentum necessary to develop such a system poses both technical and political challenges. Air Traffic Management teams in McLean, Va., and Bellevue, Wash., are attacking the technical challenges. Boeing’s Washington, D.C., operations office, headed by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy de Leon, leads the political charge. Leading ATM’s effort to convey its message to policy makers and government leaders in the U.S. capital is Bob Vilhauer, director of Washington, D.C., operations for ATM.

The challenges faced by ATM in gaining support for its concepts were daunting before Sept. 11, said Vilhauer, as “there was no real sense of urgency among policymakers to revolutionize the air transportation system along the lines of the concepts under development by Boeing ATM.” However, “the events of Sept. 11 changed all that.”

Despite the shift in focus from system capacity to system security, potential obstacles to change still loom large.

“Developing and implementing a revolutionary new air transportation system cannot occur in a vacuum,” Hayhurst said. “Our success depends on carefully coordinating the often competing interests of a variety of system users and stakeholders, governmental agencies, and international partners.”

Broad-based plan

The D.C. office has helped ATM develop a strategy designed to garner support among four key groups: air traffic system stakeholders and users within the United States; the business community; the U.S. government; and governments and stakeholders around the world.

ATM has assembled a team of aviation system users and stakeholders, known collectively as the Working Together Team, to develop requirements for a new air transportation system from the broadest possible perspective. In the early stages of the WTT process, the D.C. office held high-level discussions with numerous stakeholders to help them understand the benefits of overhauling the current system.

The D.C. office also has teamed with several trade associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to complete an extensive study of the aviation industry’s economic impact on the United States. This study is currently in its final phases, and Vilhauer expects the final results to be released later this year.

“This economic impact study will remind business owners about the importance of a thriving aviation industry to our nation’s prosperity,” said Vilhauer. “Grassroots support from the business community will give more momentum to the effort to revolutionize the current air transportation system.”

One of ATM’s biggest constituencies in any discussion of overhauling the air transportation system is the federal government, and the D.C. office has spent hundreds of hours promoting ATM to the Bush Administration, members of Congress, and a wide range of government agencies.

For instance, detailed briefings to the President’s Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry led to Dr. John Marburger, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the President’s science adviser, calling for strong and clear support for a new air transportation system and for leadership from the administration to enable that system.

The ATM and D.C. office teams augmented this contact by an ongoing series of meetings with members of Congress and key employees of governmental agencies such as the Department of Transportation, the Department of Defense, the Office of Homeland Security, NASA, and law enforcement authorities.

These meetings have stressed the inherent security features of the Boeing ATM concept and have helped policymakers understand the pressing need for changes.

Global reach

From the beginning, the ATM team believed that any new air transportation system needed to be globally interoperable to be fully successful. However, achieving global interoperability presents another set of complicated political challenges.

Currently, the ATM and D.C. office team is working with the Center for Strategic and International Studies to develop an understanding of the complex issues that need to be addressed in a truly global air traffic management system. The team also is working closely with a number of governments to understand how the instant global information sharing inherent in the Boeing ATM concept would alter the delicate balance between national sovereignty and national security.

ATM expertise tapped worldwide

The People’s Republic of China and NASA recently have contracted to use Boeing Air Traffic Management’s extensive modeling capabilities to help develop future air traffic solutions.

ATM and the Beijing Capital International Airport will conduct a six-month study of the airport’s terminal maneuvering area and ground operations. The goal is to help ensure that the airport’s planned expansion will maximize the efficient flow of taxiway traffic and will meet long-term capacity needs. The contract will be an essential component of ensuring smooth operations of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Under a $750,000 NASA contract announced last month, ATM will participate in the agency’s Virtual Airspace Modeling and Simulation project. The VAMS award is for work on the first phase of a four-phase project, which is expected to lead to the definition and development of system-level (gate-to-gate) concepts that will increase the capacity of the U.S. National Airspace System and handle growing airspace demand through 2020.

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