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NextGen

Adam Rhodes 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) 

Loveland, CO 

Shawn Reuth is the FNL Article 114 Remote Tower Representative.  

The agency has moved forward with a Phased Incremental Approach to demonstrate the Remote Tower System at FNL.  

This Virtual Demonstration Plan is part of a phased approach for the evaluation of providing air traffic services in controlled airspace using the Searidge Technologies Inc. (SRT) Remote Tower (RT) system as an alternative to a conventional (brick and mortar) non-federal airport traffic control tower (ATCT) at Northern Colorado Regional Airport (FNL). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Phase 1 (Passive Evaluation) has been delayed. This Virtual Demonstration Plan identifies Phase 1 activities that may be performed utilizing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) personnel local to the Fort Collins area. The Virtual Demonstration will be a supplement to Phase 1 Evaluations, it is not intended to replace Phase 1 Evaluations.  

During the Phase 1 Virtual Demonstration activities, the Mobile ATCT (MATCT) will remain the active facility with all RT system Virtual Demonstration activities conducted in a passive mode. The Office of NextGen (ANG) will manage the Demonstration activities and will serve as the liaison between FNL on-site activities and FAA stakeholders. Air Traffic Services (AJT) will determine the validity of Demonstration activities and data.  

Leesburg Executive (JYO) 

Leesburg, VA 

Kieron Heflin is the JYO Article 114 Remote Tower Representative.     

Relocation of all equipment into the off-site facility has been completed. Air traffic services are currently being provided out of the mobile air traffic control tower.  Limited testing of the remote tower system was scheduled for the first week of February but postponed due to inclement weather. This testing would compare the ability to detect aircraft from a mobile tower to the remote tower. Testing is scheduled to resume the 2nd and 3rd week of February. 

International Transport Worker’s Federation (ITF) 

No changes since last report. 

ICAO 

The Remote Air Traffic Services Subgroup has convened to work on a job card that will be presented to the ICAO body for consideration of future work towards requirements and recommendations for remote towers.  

NATCA participated in multiple meetings through membership in IFATCA to continue the work with the ICAO Remote Air Traffic Services Subgroup. The group looked through current ICAO documents that already encompass certain Remote Tower features and have identified certain gaps in requirements or work that would want to be explored by the subgroup. The subgroup will continue to meet through February and work on a draft paper to present to the ICAO body for acceptance of new work. 

Operational Safety Assessment (OSA) for Remote Towers 

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 met with the FAA to evaluate some initial scenarios.  

Airspace Technology Demonstration – 2 (ATD-2) 

Kristen Wilson is the ATD-2 Article 114 Remote Tower Representative.     

Background:  The ATD-2 effort provides solutions to several problems in the complicated, multi-airport environment. At most airports today, departures are managed in the order they push back from the gate, which can overload runways and cause excessive taxi and hold times. 

Additionally, significant uncertainty in the duration of the taxi-out, takeoff, and climb phases of flight leads to inaccurate demand predictions, decreased situational awareness, and overly conservative airspace restrictions that traffic managers are compelled to apply to compensate for this uncertainty. 

The final phase (phase 3) demonstrates a Terminal Departure Scheduling capability that considers multiple airports and terminal boundary constraints. Dallas Fort Worth Tracon (D10), Fort Worth Center (ZFW), Dallas Fort Worth Tower (DFW), Dallas Love (DAL), and American and Southwest Airlines facilities at DFW and DAL airports, respectively. Ultimately, ATD-2 Phase 3 will use real time information to ease constraints at terminal airspace boundary fixes.  For example, if the West gate out of the D10 airspace has 20 Miles in Trail (MIT) and there is excessive ground hold for DFW or DAL departures, ATD-2 Phase 3 will look out re-routing these aircraft out a different departure gate which will save the aircraft the delay on the ground and get the aircraft to the destination near the same scheduled time of arrival. 

ATD-2 testing at DFW continues on an opportunity-based basis, the system at Charlotte (CLT) is used on a continuous basis.  The CLT ATD-2 system has experienced no further outages since December 10th and is functioning as designed. CLT is currently waiting on an update to the timeline for final transition from ATD-2 to TFDM. NATCA participated in bi-weekly FAA IADS/RTT ATD-2 meetings through January 27th primarily focusing on ATD-2 Phase 3 testing.  NATCA also participated in bi-weekly Stormy 2021 meetings through January 27th with NASA and the field operators. The meetings with NASA and field users are used to discuss analysis and review of recent TOS submissions with feedback from ATC and flight operators in order to better understand human factor issues such as workload and complexity. Software changes will be 

implemented in February to add taxi plans for DFW Runway 31L departures to help capture flight delays and discussions for future software changes are ongoing. Dissemination of 

daily TOS activity reports for FAA and flight operators also began. 

Future Concepts Team (FCT) 

Background:  The FCT was formed to address longer term (12-24 months) Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) and Air Traffic Flow Management (ATFM) capabilities’ integration with applying an operational approach of using an integration of data, procedures, and concepts. The team is charged with the exploration of combinations of concepts and capabilities identified through the CDM Stakeholder’s Group (CSG) and the development of enhanced CDM tools. 

The FCT met two times to finalize the recommendations to the NAS Collaboration Executive Council regarding Future Flow Management. 

Vertically Established Operations 

Background:  Vertically Established Operations (VEO) formally known as Vertical Conformance Verification (VCV) is a concept that NextGen is working on in which could provide controllers a new form of separation between aircraft.  This concept could allow ATC a means for separating aircraft based off of vertical rate of climb instead of divergence, visual separation, or current altitude separation.   

No changes since last report. 

Taxi and Conformance Monitoring/Digital Copilot 

Background:  Digital Copilot is a cognitive assistance platform that MITRE designed and implemented to bring some of the benefits of Crew Resource Management (CRM) to single pilot operations. Digital Copilot reduces pilot workload and increases safety by offloading pilot tasks, increasing task efficiency, and offering contextual information (i.e., the right information at the right time). Closely related to Artificial Intelligence (AI), cognitive assistance is a form of cooperative automation designed to augment human cognition rather than replace it. The Digital Copilot is currently implemented as an iPad application that can interface with a variety of wireless sensor systems such as GPS, ADS-B, and Air Data, Attitude, and Heading Reference Systems (ADAHRS). The Digital Copilot platform currently hosts roughly forty cognitive assistance features, including a set designed to mitigate Wrong Surface Events (WSE). 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), European Union Aviation Safety Agency, and International Air Transport Association (IATA), Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and many others have issued multiple warnings about the dangers of WSE.  Like Runway Incursions (RI), the risks associated with WSE are amplified by the proximity of aircraft operating on the surface.  Based on these warnings and a series of high-profile incidents, MITRE began incorporating WSE prevention aids into Digital Copilot in FY17.  The WSE that Digital Copilot can currently mitigate include taxiway landing, taxiway takeoff, wrong-runway landing, wrong-runway takeoff, wrong-airport landing, and mistaken off-airport landing. 

MITRE is developing new Digital Copilot capabilities to support rotorcraft, multi-crew operations, and Air Traffic Controllers.   

The concept would allow for controllers to digitally enter taxi instructions to pilots which would be uplinked to the pilot’s tablet. The tablet would then provide progressive taxi instructions to the pilot. The prototype is capable of alerting pilots when there is non-compliance of taxi instructions as well as alerting the controller to this. 

No changes since last report