Front Page
Boeing Frontiers
March 2004
Volume 02, Issue 10
Boeing Frontiers
Air Traffic Management

Progress on all fronts

ATM, stakeholders work to create a networked system


The Global Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance Systems demonstration flightHigh above the Gulf of Mexico, in the middle of the night, the crew of the Connexion One Boeing 737 airplane flies into an area devoid of any radar or ground-based VHF radio communications coverage. Normally, controllers at an air traffic control center in Houston would not be able to see the aircraft's radar target on their screens or communicate effectively with the crew.

This time it's different. The target is still on the screen as the aircraft's systems continuously transmit the plane's Global Positioning System-derived position to the ground, and voice communication is crystal clear. Text data also is exchanged, and both voice and data are shared broadly through a common information network that uses satellites and ground lines to connect the airplane and various sites. Among them: a Connexion by Boeing facility in Irvine, Calif.; Boeing Air Traffic Management's headquarters in McLean, Va.; the Dynamic Simulation Laboratory at the Air Route Traffic Control Center in Houston; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratories in Lexington, Mass.

This test, completed in November under the Global Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance Systems contract between ATM and the Federal Aviation Administration, is deemed a resounding success.

It demonstrates how precision information, commonly shared, could transform air traffic systems globally, making them safer, more secure and far more efficient. It also shows how the network-centric approach Boeing is taking to enhance United States military capabilities could enhance the nation's air traffic system by putting more accurate, forward-looking traffic, weather and security information in the hands of all key players simultaneously.

The Global Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance System contract, ATM's biggest project to date-in partnership with Connexion and two Boeing subsidiaries, Preston Aviation Solutions and Autometric-concludes early this year, with good prospects for follow-on work. It represents one of ATM's primary thrusts to engage aviation stakeholders, demonstrate the benefits of a network-enabled system, and convince governments and industry globally to take the next big step to design and implement such a system.

Interest in building a next-generation, network-enabled system is strong and growing. Last year the FAA formed a multi-agency Joint Planning and Development Office to begin mapping the future direction of the U.S. National Airspace System, and Congress subsequently put the force of law behind the office through legislation enacted in December. Recognizing the value of a multi-agency approach to such an important initiative, NASA and both the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security are active in the FAA-led Joint Planning and Development Office.

Separately, NASA and ATM are teamed in an effort to define and develop gate-to-gate concepts for increasing the capacity of the National Airspace System. The five-phase project, known as Virtual Airspace Modeling and Simulation, began in May 2002 and currently is nearing the end of the second phase. The third phase begins this month and will use a NASA-developed simulation tool to assess ATM-developed operational concepts.

ATM activities, however, aren't limited to the United States.

Last summer ATM concluded a modeling and simulation project with the China Civil Aviation Authority. Beijing Capital International Airport is about to undergo a major expansion to accommodate growing traffic as well as to get ready for the surge of travel expected during the Summer Olympics in 2008. In partnership with Preston, ATM helped Chinese officials visualize air and ground operations under different expansion scenarios, and find cost-effective solutions to their needs before making major capital commitments.

Also, at the Paris Air Show last summer, the Air Traffic Alliance-consisting of EADS, Airbus and Thales-joined ATM to announce a formal agreement to work together to maximize global interoperability. The European alliance recognizes, as does Boeing, the economic importance of global standards and procedures to both airlines and air traffic service providers. ATM is finalizing plans with the Air Traffic Alliance for specific joint demonstration projects on the international stage-projects that will show competitors working together for the common good of the aviation industry and for travelers and shippers worldwide.


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