Harris has won a three-way contest to provide the FAA’s next generation ATC data communications network between pilots and controllers, beating competing bids by ITT Exelis and Lockheed Martin.
Next Generation Air Transportation System
The FAA has awarded the contract to build a nationwide data communications network for ground-to-air ATC text messaging to Harris Corporation, of Melbourne, Fla.
Cargo carrier FedEx Express will become the first U.S. airline to begin operational trials of data communications between pilots and air traffic controllers in continental airspace under the FAA’s Data Comm program, a key component of the Next Generation Air Transportation System. The carrier expects to start operations using data communications on November 12 at its Memphis International Airport hub.
Last week Airbus issued the latest installment of its future vision for aviation in 2050 and beyond, describing new ways of operating across all phases of flight. The company’s “Smarter Skies” vision centers on a “sustainable” aviation system that saves time, conserves fuel and reduces emissions. For the first time, the vision looks beyond smarter aircraft design to the efficiencies potentially derived from airspace optimization, or making the best use of the environment in which an aircraft operates, Airbus said.
The ADS-B system that is the cornerstone of the FAA’s NextGen ATC modernization plan is at risk of serious security breaches, according to Brad Haines (aka RenderMan), a hacker and network security consultant who is worried about ADS-B vulnerabilities.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration would have to slash its operations budget and could not support current levels of passenger and air cargo activity if the process of automatic federal spending cuts known as “sequestration” takes effect in January as scheduled. In turn, reduced passenger and cargo activity would lead to job losses and other economic fallout, according to a study released by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA).
The concept isn’t new. In fact, one could call it a logical extension of development work that originated with Saab in Sweden in the mid-2000s, which showed the economic potential of datalinking various sensors at an unmanned airport to controllers at a distant air traffic monitoring and control center. Such a center could handle a number of small airports that had relatively few arrivals and departures but that still needed personnel to maintain a monitoring watch.
The Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General said in a July 19 memo, “While FAA is taking steps to improve the management of NextGen, such as establishing a new program management office, overall progress with implementation has not met expectations.”
Acting FAA administrator Michael Huerta and DOT Secretary Ray LaHood broke ground on July 9 for the NextGen ATC tower to be built at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Calif.