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Adam Rhodes (I90) is the National NextGen Representative for NATCA.     

Background:   Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is the modernization of America’s air transportation system to make flying safer, more efficient, and more predictable.  NextGen is not one technology product or goal but it is an effort to transform technologies being developed and implemented after thorough testing for safety.   

Remote Towers 

Northern Colorado Regional (FNL) 

Shawn Reuth is the FNL Article 114 Remote Tower Representative.  

NATCA participated in a monthly review of MORs filed at FNL.   

Leesburg Executive (JYO)  

Kieron Heflin is the JYO Article 114 Remote Tower Representative.     

Work continues to progress with the build-out of the new facility that is located ¼ mile from JYO airport.  Remote Tower equipment is now being installed in the facility and will be optimized throughout July.  Testing of the new equipment is scheduled to resume in August of 2020 but will most likely be delayed due to COVID-19. 

International Transport Worker’s Federation (ITF) 

NATCA participated in a fourth international telcon on June 23rd, 2020 and provided input to the ITF regarding a draft international remote tower paper and executive summary.  ITF is working to align the international air traffic control community’s interests regarding remote towers.   

Operational Safety Assessment (OSA) for Remote Towers 

Background:  The purpose of the OSAs are to define requirements for Remote Towers.  Remote Towers will be non-federal systems and it is important that we develop requirements for these systems to ensure any vendor that chooses to design, build, and sell a Remote Tower, does it by standardized requirements. 

NATCA participated in a workgroup on June 3rd to identify potential hazards associated with losing various functions of the Remote Tower System.  These functions were the Signal Light Gun (SLG), ambient audio (airport sounds, etc.), and inadvertent loss of video signal.  The workgroup identified hazards and discussed the different severity levels associated with these hazards.  The workgroup will forward this information to the formal OSA panel that will meet on August 19th, 2020 to finalize the hazard severity and likelihood.   

Improving Weather Information on STARS 

Background:  Current weather information available to ATC may be insufficient to support today’s terminal operations and maintain operational efficiency.  ATC has reported that false, missing, obsolete, or rapidly changing areas of weather on an air traffic controller’s primary display leads to unnecessary or inaccurate re-routes.  The FAA has identified the need for a clearly articulated set of weather requirements for the terminal environment that will in turn drive the architecture, systems, and services satisfying these requirements.  The FAA will be evaluating different sources of weather information that could be ingested into STARS that will provide for a more accurate depiction of precipitation to the controller. 

NATCA participated in regularly scheduled weekly meetings to address improving the display of precipitation on STARS.  The FAA finalized the list of shortfalls earlier this month and began work on the Concept of Operations (ConOps) which will address those shortfalls.  NATCA provided comments to the ConOps and scenarios that were developed to accurately capture the shortfalls.  NATCA is awaiting a final draft version of the ConOps which should be available sometime in July.   

FAA Tech Center  

NATCA participated in a meeting with the Manager and her team of the FAA Tech Center Testing and Evaluations Division.  As very limited testing starts to resume at the Tech Center, we want to ensure the safety of our members is the utmost priority.   

Minimum Capabilities List (MCL) 

Background:  Mixed equipage continues to be a problem in realizing NextGen benefits throughout the NAS.  Besides the ADS-B out mandate (effective Jan 2020), there is no effort from the FAA to mandate equipage for aircraft.  In October of 2019, the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) was formerly tasked to:  provide a collaborative analysis of current fleet equipage with respect to the MCL capabilities, socialization of the MCL with additional stakeholder groups, including aircraft and equipment manufacturers and regional airlines not involved in discussions to-date, and recommendations on steps to encourage MCL adoption and commitments to equip aircraft with the associated capabilities.  The objective of the NAC is to provide independent advice and recommendations to the FAA and to respond to specific taskings received directly from the FAA.  NATCA participated in the MCL Workgroup Meeting on June 4th and June 16th, 2020 with the FAA and industry stakeholders to finalize the MCL. 

Four-Dimensional Trajectory (4DT) 

Background:  The purpose of this demonstration will be to deliver future 4-dimensional clearances to the flight deck via DataComm.  Though the capability within DataComm to deliver these types of clearances does not currently exist, the test will supplement this with clearances delivered to the Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) in the flight deck to simulate what a future DataComm could look like.  The clearances delivered to the flight deck will involve negotiations with the Flight Deck, AOC, TMU, Command Center, and will present a potential route that has been vetted through all that would be displayed for the controller to execute if practical.    

NATCA met with the FAA, Boeing, and various other stakeholders to finalize the briefing materials that will be sent to each ARTCC that will be participating in the demo flight.  We have also locked in the dates of the two live demo flights.  August 11th, 2020 and September 8th, 2020.  We disseminated the initial draft of the briefing materials to the FacReps and Facility Tech Reps (FTRs) for comment.  With no comments provided, we forwarded the finalized briefing materials to AJT.  Once AJT reviews and approves the final material, they will be forwarded to each facility for a briefing to the workforce. 

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