My last post hit on a number of issues on the terminal side of ATC. Is the Agency’s goal really to try to make it so “easy” a caveman…or monkey…could do it? I’m sure there are some in the middle and lower ends of the management echelons that really believe they are making things safer. I’m sure they don’t realize they’re being manipulated into doing Industry’s bidding for them.
What’s that I said? Industry? Where did that come from? Didn’t you know that we’ll no longer be controllers in Industry’s version of NextGen? We’ll be ANSPs…Air Navigation Service Providers.
Go here to see the Joint Planning and Development Office Concept of Operations (CONOPS) for NextGen released early this year. Chapter 2 is where I pulled the rest of this. I’m going to hit you with a bunch of information before summarizing…
The ANSP provides performance-based services, allowing operational benefits to aircraft that have advanced capabilities. For a given airspace volume, the minimum level of ability may vary depending on overall demand characteristics and the environment. Flight operators choose ability levels for their aircraft according to their needs and to make the economic tradeoff between level of service and aircraft investment.
Translation: The more money you spend to equip your aircraft (i.e. purchase from Industry), the better operational benefits you’ll be allowed within the NAS. It’ll no longer be first come, first served – it will go more like, more money to burn, best benefits.
Dynamic Resource Management. The move toward dynamic resource management supports the need to provide improved services to all NextGen users. NextGen delivers ATM system resources and services to meet demand, rather than constraining demand to match the available resources (including people, facilities, and airspace). Delivery of services is no longer tied directly to the geographic location of the aircraft. ANSP personnel acquire needed information and communicate with flight operators independent of their facility location.
Translation: We’re all going to be one big unhappy family together somewhere in the central U.S. and make ourselves a nice big target for the next 9/11…or inattentive backhoe operator.
Modernized Surface Operations. Finally, another transformation in ATM is the advent of modernized surface operations. Surface operations move from a highly visual, tactical environment to a more strategic set of operations enabled by enhanced or synthetic vision in low/no-visibility conditions that will better achieve operator and ANSP efficiency objectives, and better integrate surface, airspace, and traffic flow decision making. Modernized surface operations delivers surface and tower services more affordably, enabling access to ANSP services at more airports than is practical today, resulting in greater value to flight operators and airport operators.
Translation: We’re not going to staff most towers at specific geographic locations, just in the central U.S. somewhere and we’re going to persuade you that it’s a good thing there isn’t anybody actually looking out a window right there at the airport.
Information exchange is more clearly targeted to the appropriate decision makers, reducing workload and unnecessary actions by those not affected. Machine-to-machine negotiation replaces labor-intensive, voice, or text-based processes.
Translation: Watch everyone’s situational awareness decrease as we remove as much of the human element as we can…and as we sell everyone the equipment to send/receive those information exchanges.
By participating in the collaborative process and providing user preferences, the airspace users benefit from flying their desired routes based on their business need.
Translation: We say we care about general aviation, but our biases show up if you watch for them.
Capacity/Better Airspace and Runway Utilization. One of the primary uses of TBO is to increase the inherent capacity of airspace to better accommodate demand from flight operators. As a result, TBO and trajectory-based planning, together with improved weather information integrated into decision making and integration of military, security, environmental, and other requirements, allow access to more airspace more of the time, with reduced impact to traffic flows. The flexible management of aggregate trajectories enabled by TBO allows the ANSP to maximize access for all traffic, while adhering to the principle of giving advantage to those aircraft with advanced capabilities that support the ATM system. TBO minimizes excess separation resulting from today’s control imprecision and lack of predictability and enables reduced separation among aircraft, allowing increased capacity. TBO is also a key element of high-density arrival/departure procedures. Implementing high-density arrival/departure procedures enables new runways to be built much closer to existing runways and potentially reduces the cost of new runway construction.
Translation: You’ll get maximum access and advantage in the NAS, so long as you buy our equipment. See Line 991 again.
Surface Procedures. Trajectory-based procedures may be used on the airport surface, at high-density airports, to expedite traffic and schedule active runway crossings. Equipped aircraft may perform delegated separation procedures, especially in low-visibility conditions.
Surface operations in the NextGen time frame at medium- and large-demand airports are integrated with other ATM functions, including departures, arrivals, and collaborative traffic management. Improved surveillance, automation, and information sharing enhance surface and tower operations for all traffic. The busiest airports, at peak times (most likely those implementing high-density arrival/departure operations), conduct high-density surface operations for adequately equipped traffic to maximize runway throughput and minimize taxi times while moving aircraft safely and with robust runway incursion prevention. Air traffic control towers provide enhanced services compared to today. Particularly in low-visibility conditions, the ANSP can safely make more efficient use of runways through real-time depiction in the tower of the location and intent of arriving and departing aircraft, as well as any aircraft intending to cross an active runway. Lower-demand airports may implement staffed or automated NextGen towers to provide tower services equivalent to those of traditional towers. This allows tower services to be provided at more airports than is affordable today and/or for extended hours of service. Table 2-3 provides a summary of NextGen surface transformations.
Today’s NAS, in which controllers provide safe aircraft separation by issuing tactical clearances for individual aircraft, is reaching its capacity as splitting sectors further produces diminishing benefits. A new paradigm is required to manage human workload better, increase productivity, and leverage advanced automation capabilities. This, in turn, requires transformation to achieve NextGen scalability and affordability goals, including the following:
Restructuring the roles of humans and automation and how they perform their respective functions to synergize human and automation performance
Better distribution of tasks and decision making between service providers, flight crews, and flight planners to achieve operational efficiencies and scalability
Broadening the resource pool of service providers by eliminating the “hard-wired” connection between service providers and geographic regions (Chapter 4)
Think on this (there is a lot and I only hit highlights!) and we’ll talk more later…