Boeing Frontiers
April 2003
Volume 01, Issue 11
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools
Air Traffic Management

Moving beyond imagination

Boeing team tests technologies for air system of the future


Moving beyond imaginationImagine an air system where people on the flight deck, in control centers and in security agencies have access to the same suite of information simultaneously: a system that enables rapid response to difficult weather, traffic and security situations as they unfold, using up-to-the-minute data, including aircraft audio and video; a system that links information systems that are currently not linked, in order to provide as detailed a picture as possible of the flying environment to every system stakeholder.

If you were a member of the Boeing team working on the Global Communications, Navigation and Surveillance System contract with the Federal Aviation Administration, you wouldn't have to imagine such a world. You would be too busy creating it.

Air Traffic Management leads the GCNSS team, which consists of representatives from across the Boeing enterprise, including Connexion by BoeingSM, Phantom Works, Autometric and Preston Aviation Solutions.

The FAA awarded the contract to ATM in July 2002 to evaluate the feasibility of integrating emerging capacity- and security-enhancing technologies into the National Airspace System. The enhancements are intended to improve the capacity, efficiency, safety and security of the National Airspace System by providing both air- and groundbased personnel with improved real-time situational awareness of the entire flying environment.

"Connectivity of this sort will substantially improve air system efficiency by ensuring that controllers, dispatchers, pilots and airline operation centers have the best information at their disposal, as well as improve the ability of security personnel to detect and respond to unusual situations aboard aircraft," said Mike Lewis, Boeing program manager for the GCNSS project.

In February 2003, the team began to demonstrate the effectiveness of improved connectivity in the air system on a test flight from Seattle onboard Connexion One, a specially equipped 737 aircraft that Connexion by Boeing operates, offering airborne broadband communications capabilities. Customers from the FAA were aboard the flight as well as in ATM's McLean, Va., lab facility to witness these initial tests and to see firsthand the promise that improved connectivity holds.

Moving beyond imaginationCapabilities the GCNSS team demonstrated, among others:

  • Transmission of aircraft position data, both current and planned, to networked computers at multiple sites on the ground, enabling more strategic management of air traffic and rapid detection of aircraft deviations from their approved flight paths
  • Uplink of radar weather images to the flight deck, and downlink of data regarding environmental conditions outside the aircraft, enabling the display of better realtime weather information both in the air and on the ground
  • Transmission of operational data from the airplane, enabling the ground display of real-time visual, 3-D representations of the aircraft in flight, the aircraft instrument readings and the status of the aircraft systems
  • Transmission of voice and data messages, and video of multiple aircraft interior spaces, between the aircraft in flight and multiple locations across the United States
  • Transmission of voice, data and video between the ground and hand-held Personal Digital Assistants onboard the airplane

The team accomplished all of these transmissions using broadband and narrowband satellite links, demonstrating the feasibility of moving voice, video and other data between systems on the ground and systems aboard aircraft in oceanic airspace and other remote environments.

"These technologies have the potential to enable the creation of a fully linked and integrated network of aircraft, airlines, controllers, security personnel, law enforcement officials and others—regardless of their geographic location," Lewis said.



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