As countries and economies continue to develop, demand for air travel shows no signs of stopping. The relentless demand and the strain it puts on airport and airspace capacity is pushing the global aviation industry out of its conservative – and relatively uncollaborative – comfort zone. And that just might be a good thing. We should be taking more advantage of new concepts to improve safety and efficiency.
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The global aviation industry is conservative about change. This is understandable, as one of our main concerns is safety. This approach works well in a relatively stable environment. However, systemic inertia against the rate of change we are currently experiencing could actually be less safe. Just look at the number of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, being injected into the air navigation systems, and you understand the urgency of paradigm adjustment.
There is a wealth of modern operational and communication technology that could help meet much of the demand challenges more effectively.
Obsolescence & cost effectiveness
Some 104,000 flights scheduled each day carry nearly 10 million passengers, yet Air Traffic Control still uses technology from the 1970s. Area Navigation, or RNAV, used by 98% of airliners, for instance, evolved greatly with the introduction of satellite-based navigation. Meanwhile, much of the world’s air navigation infrastructure still uses ground-based navigation aids, despite the vulnerability to disruption and higher workloads for controllers and pilots.
At the other extreme, effective technology should support only real operational requirements, not “because we can.” How do you justify adding another layer of ADS-B surveillance on top of a fully multiple-redundant radar surveillance without rationalizing the requirement? Infrastructure and design investments could realise more synergies if chosen more collaboratively by aircraft operators, airports and air navigation service providers.
The average flight now covers some 1100 miles; the longest, over 9000 miles. Multiple jurisdictions are involved in handling most flights, yet states still do not routinely share flight trajectory data electronically end-to-end. Communication and collaboration between airports and air traffic management is still very limited, especially across jurisdictions. Coordination that does take place is mostly verbal or point-to-point rather than via modern IP networks.
Areas ripe for improvement are numerous. Airports seldom advise ATC when flights will be ready to manoeuvre and there is no single authoritative version of a flight plan communicated to all stakeholders. Also, ATC frequently makes decisions at a local level without cross-boundary coordination, and airports are not advised of planned arrival times in time for efficient gate and resource planning.
Clearly, no one can solve the current global aviation demand challenges alone. We need much more information-sharing and collaboration, and we are seeing that Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) and other inter-operable technologies are already proving quite useful.
Just as no one person has all the required answers, no one person even has all the questions. As the numbers and range of flights increase, working together in multi-disciplinary solution-oriented groups becomes more important than ever.
About To70. To70 is one of the world’s leading aviation consultancies, founded in the Netherlands with offices in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. To70 believes that society’s growing demand for transport and mobility can be met in a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable manner. To achieve this, policy and business decisions have to be based on objective information. With our diverse team of specialists and generalists to70 provides pragmatic solutions and expert advice, based on high-quality data-driven analyses. For more information, please refer to www.to70.com.