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Managing the skies

Posted: 4 April 2013 | Yap Ong Heng, Director General, CAAS | No comments yet

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has recently entered a Memorandum of Agreement with Nanyang Technological University to create the first Air Traffic Management Research Institute (ATMRI). International Airport Review spoke to Mr Yap Ong Heng, CAAS Director-General, about the initiative

Asia-Pacific is the world’s fastest growing region in terms of air traffic; what challenges does this present for air traffic management (ATM)?

Projections are that strong growth will continue in the Asia-Pacific region. This will also raise the complexity of the air transport system in the region. Both present significant challenges for ATM, and it cannot just remain business as usual.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has recently entered a Memorandum of Agreement with Nanyang Technological University to create the first Air Traffic Management Research Institute (ATMRI). International Airport Review spoke to Mr Yap Ong Heng, CAAS Director-General, about the initiativeAsia-Pacific is the world’s fastest growing region in terms of air traffic; what challenges does this present for air traffic management (ATM)?Projections are that strong growth will continue in the Asia-Pacific region. This will also raise the complexity of the air transport system in the region. Both present significant challenges for ATM, and it cannot just remain business as usual.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has recently entered a Memorandum of Agreement with Nanyang Technological University to create the first Air Traffic Management Research Institute (ATMRI). International Airport Review spoke to Mr Yap Ong Heng, CAAS Director-General, about the initiative

Asia-Pacific is the world’s fastest growing region in terms of air traffic; what challenges does this present for air traffic management (ATM)?

Projections are that strong growth will continue in the Asia-Pacific region. This will also raise the complexity of the air transport system in the region. Both present significant challenges for ATM, and it cannot just remain business as usual.

Although ATM has progressed over the years with new technologies and systems, only ATM transformation will ensure the required capability and capacity for and the safety and efficiency of the expected greater air traffic flows across the region.

Some states and regions have already embarked on their respective ATM modernisation programmes. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has also established the global Aviation Systems Block Upgrade (ASBU) framework for ATM modernisation and harmonisation. In line with this, the Asia-Pacific civil aviation community has a shared aspiration for seamless air traffic management in the region.

Singapore is committed to contributing to regional ATM transformation and harmonisation. In 2012 we launched the initiative to build Singapore as a Centre of Excellence for ATM. This will be a vibrant and self-sustaining ecosystem, comprising research institutes and think-tanks, academia, industry players, and international and foreign ATM entities and aviation stakeholders, working on a wide range of ATM research and development (R&D) activities.

We will see the convergence of mind and matter in Singapore focused on developing, test-bedding and validating ATM concepts, technologies and solutions that meet the unique requirements of Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region. The CAAS has set aside S$200 million to provide seed funding for the establishment of research institutes and think-tanks and for the conduct of R&D in ATM in Singapore.

What are the ultimate goals of the ATMRI initiative?

The CAAS and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) signed a Memorandum of Agreement on 5 February 2013 to establish the ATMRI in Singapore. A key element of the larger effort to build Singapore as a Centre of Excellence for ATM, the ATMRI will be Singapore’s first institute dedicated to R&D in ATM, conducting high quality research of world-class standard. Through the Institute, we also aim to build and nurture human capital to ensure a sustainable pipeline of research manpower for ATM R&D in Singapore.

The ATMRI and more broadly the ATM R&D work carried out in Singapore will generate concepts, technologies and solutions that will catalyse ATM transformation in Singapore and the wider Asia-Pacific region, harmonised with ATM modernisation in other parts of the world. This will contribute to enhancing capacity and the safety and efficiency of air traffic in the region and beyond.

How will CAAS and NTU work together to make the initiative a success?

The CAAS and NTU share a common vision of making Singapore a centre, with a vibrant R&D community and strong research talent, for the conduct of high quality R&D in ATM to meet the needs of Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region. With their respective strengths, CAAS and NTU will work in synergy on ATM R&D.

As a leading air navigation services provider, and having contributed actively to ATM modernisation and harmonisation efforts in the region, CAAS has domain knowledge, operational expertise and experience in ATM. A world-renowned research-intensive university, NTU has the research capabilities and talent in diverse areas such as IT, operational research, and human factors, all are highly relevant to ATM R&D.

Moreover, over the next five years, the CAAS will provide S$50 million to fund the ATMRI and the R&D activities undertaken by the Institute, while NTU will provide in-kind contributions of S$22 million, including research manpower and facilities.

CAAS and NTU will also work closely on advancing the ATMRI’s collaboration with international entities with interest and knowhow in ATM. This will facilitate jumpstarting ATM research efforts in the ATMRI and Singapore more broadly. Partnerships with foreign entities will also inject global perspectives to the work undertaken by the Institute and ensure that the concepts and solutions developed here are aligned and harmonised with other regions.

What will the establishment of the ATMRI mean for air traffic management?

The research projects undertaken by the ATMRI are aimed at developing concepts and solutions that will ensure ATM is provided in the region with high standards of safety and service.

As a start, the ATMRI will embark on research projects on improving the efficiency of air traffic in the air and on the ground through the clever use of technologies and the effective management of traffic flows. The Institute will also work on technologies and concepts that can be applied to safely reduce aircraft separation, and thereby increase air traffic capacity.

In addition, given that weather can be a significant obstacle to smooth flights, the Institute will look at ways to enable the advance planning of flight trajectories with minimal weather-induced disruptions. As the human is a key element in the ATM system, the ATMRI will also focus on finding ways to enhance human performance with increased automation and optimising workflows.

Aside from this partnership with NTU, has CAAS embarked on any other ATM collaborations?

CAAS has been actively contributing to collaborations on ATM modernisation and harmonisation in the Asia-Pacific region. As an active member of the Asia Pacific Air Navigation Planning and Implementation Regional Group, we have spearheaded or helped advance many ATM initiatives that have significantly increased capacity, enhanced efficiency and improved safety for air traffic in the region.

CAAS is committed to further collaborative efforts that will contribute to ATM transformation in the region, interoperable with the rest of the world. Under the initiative to build Singapore as a Centre of Excellence for ATM, the CAAS has sealed four foundational collaboration agreements with leading American and European organisations in ATM modernisation: the Federal Aviation Administration, the Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU), the MITRE Corporation and Airbus Prosky.

They are drivers or significant participants in major ATM modernisation programmes, such as the Next Generation of Air Transportation System (NextGen) in the United States and the SESAR in Europe. These partnerships will set in motion a wide range of collaborative activities, including R&D, test-bedding and validation of ATM concepts, technologies and solutions to ensure the safety and efficiency of the growing air traffic in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific.

Biography

Mr Yap Ong Heng was appointed Director- General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore on 1 July 2009. He was the Chairman of the ICAO High-Level Meeting on International Aviation and Climate Change in October 2009, and the Chief Delegate/Alternate Chief Delegate at the 37th Session of the ICAO Assembly in 2010, the ICAO High-Level Conference on Aviation Safety in 2010, and the Air Navigation Conference in 2012. Mr Yap is currently Vice-Chairman of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) Executive Committee, and Chairman of the CANSO Asia-Pacific CEOs Committee. He previously served as Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Law, and in various appointments in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the Ministry of Defence before his retirement as a Brigadier-General.

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