June 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 2 
Special Features

Beating traffic Jams

Now part of Phantom Works, the Advanced Air Traffic Management team continues its work to help meet growth in air-system demand


Beating traffic JamsSometimes, the best way to do business is to accept that your customer isn’t quite ready. Other priorities are on the customer’s plate or the funding isn’t there. Your customer likes your ideas, but they’ll just have to wait.

That describes the current status of the Boeing Phantom Works Advanced Air Traffic Management (AATM) team in its efforts to work with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and international air traffic management agencies to transform the world’s air traffic system into a next-generation architecture capable of safely and efficiently handling major increases in air traffic demand. Created as an independent Boeing business unit in 2001, Air Traffic Management was incorporated into Boeing’s advanced research and development unit in 2004. That move occurred after it became clear that, as a result of a slump in commercial air traffic after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, governments (particularly the U.S. government) were not ready to commit the funds needed to transform the world’s air traffic control system.

“If you look at Washington, D.C., now, the agenda is focused appropriately on homeland security, the deficit, Iraq reconstruction and the war on terrorism,” says Kevin Brown, Boeing Phantom Works vice president and general manager of AATM. “And although we all see air traffic congestion reemerging as a critical issue, it hasn’t reached the crisis stage yet.”


Even though the U.S. government’s funding priorities have changed, rapid growth in air traffic continues to be an emerging problem needing a long-term solution.

“If you look at the history of aviation, air traffic tends to grow at roughly twice the rate of growth of gross domestic product every year,” Brown says. “If you project 20 years, there will be a doubling of the U.S. and European air system demand and a tripling of the Asia-Pacific demand.”

The air traffic management system, for the past 50 years, has mainly involved air traffic controllers using radar to monitor the flight path of airplanes, and directing traffic through voice radio commands. However, Brown says this structure can’t be “scaled up” enough to meet a traffic load that’s two or three times what it is today, even if more controllers are hired or the system is incrementally improved.

“You need different concepts that involve managing aircraft trajectories and providing air traffic controllers with layers of automation that help them be more productive in their jobs,” he says. “The next-generation ATM system will be built around integrated information technology, or what the U.S. Department of Defense calls network-centric operations. All sectors of the air traffic system will be integrated so that everyone will have a common operating picture of the surrounding airspace.”


The Boeing Phantom Works Advanced ATM team is continuing work on several key contracts and research efforts. They include

The Global Communications Navigation and Surveillance System (GCNSS), a contract Boeing has with the FAA that will define the baseline system architecture for System-Wide Information Management. The program also will help the FAA understand investment costs and benefits.

So far, Boeing and the FAA have demonstrated how network-enabled concepts developed for military customers can be applied to air traffic management. The team has shown how real-time, precision information about aircraft position and intent as well as weather can be shared widely through a Common Information Network. This enables strategic planning and operational changes that increase system capacity, safety and security.

Aviation security. Boeing is under contract with the FAA to lead a government-industry team that will demonstrate how network-enabled operations can enhance both capacity and aviation security in the airspace surrounding Washington, D.C. The intent is to form a foundation to meet future ATM needs. The effort includes integrated surveillance information, data sharing among multiple agencies, secure communications and simulated evaluations of improved operational procedures. The project is part of a national plan by the FAA’s Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) to transform U.S. air traffic management to meet future requirements.

At the forefront with four fronts

Boeing has been at the forefront of work with the FAA, international air traffic control agencies, NASA and the U.S. departments of Defense, Commerce and Homeland Security to devise a next-generation Air Traffic Management system. The Boeing advanced ATM concept has four defining features:

  • Aircraft trajectories with look-ahead capabilities that enable air traffic managers to more proactively manage traffic dynamics
  • A Common Information Network to allow dynamic revision of flight paths when unexpected weather or other developments threaten traffic flow
  • Airspace redesign to develop simpler and more strategic operating procedures
  • A hybrid ground- and space-based communications, navigation and surveillance system to enable precise, seamless global operations
Tailored Arrivals. Boeing is part of an international team that conducted flight trials in Australia last year showing how an innovative concept called Tailored Arrivals can improve efficiency and schedule reliability, and reduce fuel burn, noise and emissions, when aircraft descend and land. In Tailored Arrivals, a descent and arrival trajectory is transmitted electronically to arriving aircraft so pilots and controllers don’t have to engage in multiple voice communications.

Inbound Priority Sequencing. An international team that includes Boeing has begun trials to demonstrate new collaborative decision-making tools called Inbound Priority Sequencing at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. The IPS tools are being used together with the existing infrastructure at Schiphol and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to improve the predictability of inbound aircraft and the on-time performance of airport operations. The IPS program is the work of Boeing; Luchtverkeersleiding Nederland, the air traffic control organization of the Netherlands; KLM; and the Eurocontrol Central Flow Management Unit.

Interoperability. Boeing is working with Europe’s Air Traffic Alliance to ensure that major U.S. and European initiatives planning for future air transport systems are interoperable. The U.S. effort, led by the JPDO, is called the Next-Generation Air Transportation System. The European initiative, cosponsored by the European Union and Eurocontrol (Europe’s air traffic control organization), is called the Single Skies Modernization Program. Boeing is part of an ATA-led industrial consortium that soon will get a contract from the European Union to plan the Single Skies Modernization Program. Boeing’s role will be to ensure that Single Skies is interoperable with the Next-Generation Air Transportation System, Brown says.

In addition to improved safety, Boeing’s interest in helping to devise a next-generation ATM system “is the ability to sell more commercial airplanes into an unconstrained market,” Brown says. “We don’t make radars or radios. But in terms of large-scale systems integration and helping our government customers through the process of implementing network-centric technologies and solutions, we can help a lot. We believe this bold initiative will bear fruit very soon.”


Front Page
Contact Us | Site Map| Site Terms | Privacy | Copyright
Copyright© Boeing. All rights reserved.