Adam Rhodes is the National NextGen Representative.
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.
Northern Colorado Regional (FNL)
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.
Phase 1 Virtual Demonstration activities have commenced. 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. The demonstration has served as an opportunity to get the FNL controllers familiar with the Remote Tower System as it has been approximately 1 year since they have utilized the system.
Leesburg Executive (JYO)
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. Testing of the JYO Remote Tower System took place in February. The testing focused on comparing the visual detection of the remote tower to the visual detection of the mobile tower. NATCA added comments to the report, and it was finalized and given to AJT.
JYO will begin testing the new system and location in April and May of 2021. This test will ensure the new equipment that has been introduced in the Remote Tower does not introduce any additional safety hazards. NextGen will also be testing consolidating and de-consolidating positions in the Remote Tower from 3 controllers and down to 1 controller.
Over the next year a decision will need to be made regarding operational approval from AJT of the Remote Tower System in the NAS. Requirement’s work will continue, and the vendor (Saab-Sensis) will need to ensure their system meets all of the FAA requirements to obtain type certification of this Remote Tower System in the NAS.
International Transport Worker’s Federation (ITF)
No change since last report.
Background: 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.
No change since last report.
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.
The FAA has scheduled a user assessment at the FAA Tech Center Human Factors Lab in April in which controllers will view different weather alternatives such as Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP), Multi Radar Multi Sensor System (MRMS), Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS), etc. on a STARS emulation platform. Controllers will evaluate these different sources with the current weather source Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR) and provide feedback regarding benefits and limitations of each weather source. This user assessment will help to down select from the list of alternative sources.
NATCA met with the NextGen Weather Division as well as other LOBs within the FAA to discuss operational needs for controllers in regard to future weather technologies that could be incorporated into STARS, ERAM, ATOP, etc. NATCA will meet with FAA Air Traffic Service representatives to discuss other types of weather phenomena that could be placed on controller’s primary displays such as: icing, turbulence, cloud tops, wind, etc.
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, 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 (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 ultimately 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 CLT is used on a continuous basis. Charlotte (CLT) is currently waiting on an update to the timeline for final transition from ATD-2 to Terminal Flight Data Monitor (TFDM). NATCA participated in bi-weekly FAA IADS/RTT. ATD-2 meetings through March 24th primarily focusing on ATD-2 Phase 3 testing. NATCA also participated in bi-weekly Stormy 2021 meetings through March 24th with NASA and the field users. 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 to better understand human factor issues such as workload and complexity. Daily TOS activity reports were updated to contain more pertinent information and continue to be disseminated to NATCA, FAA and the field operators continue. Training was conducted on the upcoming software changes including enhancements for the scratchpad features and including ZFW as the alternate TOS approver when resources are not available at either DFW or DAL. Discussions continue regarding reasons for approvals and non-approvals in a coordinated effort to maximize system benefits and minimize workload.