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Defining the future of global ATM

Posted: 8 December 2011 | Nancy Graham, Director, Air Navigation Bureau at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) | No comments yet

In 2012, ICAO will convene a landmark air navigation conference that will seek agreement on the strategic plan to set the stage for globally interoperable Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems. These systems will be implemented based on the Aviation System Block Upgrade (ASBU) concept. The ASBU approach calls for a flexible, tailored upgrade path based on a series of blocks and modules designed to enhance safety, address future air transport growth and reduce emissions.

ICAO estimates that over $120 billion will be spent on the transformation of air transportation systems in the next 10 years. While NextGen and SESAR in the United States and Europe account for a large share of this spending, parallel initiatives are underway in many other States, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan and the Russian federation.

Modernisation is an enormously complex task but one which the industry absolutely requires. It is clear that to safely and efficiently accommodate projected increases in air traffic demand – as well as respond to the diversified needs of operators, the environment and other inherent issues -it is necessary to evolve Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems in order to provide greater operational benefits.

In 2012, ICAO will convene a landmark air navigation conference that will seek agreement on the strategic plan to set the stage for globally interoperable Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems. These systems will be implemented based on the Aviation System Block Upgrade (ASBU) concept. The ASBU approach calls for a flexible, tailored upgrade path based on a series of blocks and modules designed to enhance safety, address future air transport growth and reduce emissions.ICAO estimates that over $120 billion will be spent on the transformation of air transportation systems in the next 10 years. While NextGen and SESAR in the United States and Europe account for a large share of this spending, parallel initiatives are underway in many other States, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan and the Russian federation.Modernisation is an enormously complex task but one which the industry absolutely requires. It is clear that to safely and efficiently accommodate projected increases in air traffic demand - as well as respond to the diversified needs of operators, the environment and other inherent issues -it is necessary to evolve Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems in order to provide greater operational benefits.

In 2012, ICAO will convene a landmark air navigation conference that will seek agreement on the strategic plan to set the stage for globally interoperable Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems. These systems will be implemented based on the Aviation System Block Upgrade (ASBU) concept. The ASBU approach calls for a flexible, tailored upgrade path based on a series of blocks and modules designed to enhance safety, address future air transport growth and reduce emissions.

ICAO estimates that over $120 billion will be spent on the transformation of air transportation systems in the next 10 years. While NextGen and SESAR in the United States and Europe account for a large share of this spending, parallel initiatives are underway in many other States, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan and the Russian federation.

Modernisation is an enormously complex task but one which the industry absolutely requires. It is clear that to safely and efficiently accommodate projected increases in air traffic demand – as well as respond to the diversified needs of operators, the environment and other inherent issues -it is necessary to evolve Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems in order to provide greater operational benefits.

The 37th ICAO General Assembly directed the organisation to double its efforts towards satisfying global needs for airspace inter – operability while sustaining our sector’s focus on the constant improvement of aviation safety outcomes and environmental performance. ICAO initiated the Aviation System Block Upgrades (ASBU) initiative to establish a co-operative and programmatic ATM imple – mentation framework that acknowledges the current capacities and capabilities of ICAO’s diverse member States.

A landmark moment

ICAO’s ASBU initiative is a strategic global approach for facilitating interoperability, harmonisation and modernisation of the air transport system on a global scale. It was first introduced to the broader aviation community at ICAO’s Global Air Navigation Industry Symposium (GANIS) in September 2011.

An ASBU designates a set of performance improvements that can be implemented globally from a defined point in time. ASBUs are based largely on the operational concepts extracted from ongoing research outcomes and other developments associated with the United States’ Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), Europe’s Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) and Japan’s Civil Aviation Reform of Air Traffic Services (CARATS). These programmes have all been progressing in line with an earlier version of ICAO’s Global ATM Operational Concept (Doc 9854).

Each ASBU is comprised of a series of modules characterised by:

  • A clearly defined measurable operational improvement and success metric
  • Necessary equipment and/or systems in aircraft and on ground along with an operational approval or certification plan u Standards and procedures for both airbourne and ground systems
  • A positive business case over a clearly defined period of time.

The timeline reflected in Table 1 refers to the availability or ability to use each module in an operational manner and generate operational benefits. There are several activities (research, development, validation) which need to be properly planned and executed before reaching the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) dates and these are an integral part of the plan (e.g. the necessary infrastructure to support a block upgrade capability).

This type of structured approach provides a basis for sound investment strategies and commitment from equipment manufacturers, States and operators/service providers. The development of block upgrades will change the focus from top down planning to more bottom up and pragmatic implementation actions in the regions.

Heightened collaboration and ASBU success

At the GANIS, industry participants obtained detailed information on each of the ASBU upgrade modules and were given the oppor – tunity to voice their feedback to the organisation and present their own views on the way forward.

The advantage of the ASBU approach for industry stakeholders is certainty of investment. Operators need to have confidence surrounding their avionics upgrades. Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) similarly need certainty to invest in equipment and manufacturers need to know what equipment to build. Every aspect of the new system becomes interrelated at one point or another and this is precisely why ICAO is providing leadership to create a forum and define a clear way forward in advance of the required implementation.

Two specialised teams involved in air transportation modernisation have helped shape the ASBU concept:

  • A challenge team comprises of government and industry decision-makers and provides senior level policy input
  • A technical team comprises of subject matter experts that develop the ASBU modules that support key performance improvement areas, which are defined in terms of time and evolving technologies.

Stakeholders such as regulators, service providers, airspace users and manufacturers will be increasingly interacting as the ASBU approach is implemented. The highly integrated nature of the capabilities covered by the block upgrades requires a significant degree of coordination and a very high level of co-operation becomes clearly essential if we are to achieve true global interoperability.

ASBUs will likewise require the develop – ment and delivery of necessary ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) to States and industry. This process needs to be very efficient to facilitate regulatory approvals and ensure that operational benefits can be delivered promptly.

It was for this purpose that ICAO recently established a new standards roundtable, which will encourage increased co-operation amongst all aviation standards developers. States and industry will therefore benefit from the availability of SARPs with realistic lead times, allowing for the development of adequate action plans for evolving existing equipment or, if needed, investment in new facilities and systems.

ICAO is continuing to consolidate inputs generated through the GANIS and will be carrying out a second round of aviation community and industry consultations over the coming months. This feedback is informing ICAO’s ASBU related adjustments to its Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP), a process that will be going through further internal and public reviews leading up to the organisation’s air navigation conference in November 2012.

The challenge of this conference will be to obtain agreement on the ASBUs as well as incorporation of the supporting roadmaps into the revised GANP under the concept of ‘One Sky’. It will also be an opportunity for aviation to formally agree the first series of ASBUs. 2011’s GANIS event was an important step toward achieving those outcomes and will go a long way to helping the global air transport community formalise the strategies for its long term infrastructure and equipage.

Failure is not an option

As the world economy grows, so does air traffic and airspace congestion. Even in a global financial and credit environment characterised by increasing uncertainty, the fact that aviation is a key driver for so much modern economic activity means that it must be supported.

The achievement of local and regional economic recovery and prosperity over the coming decades will be largely defined by the capability of the global aviation community to respond to its growth and efficiency challenges in a unified, strategic manner.

The ASBU initiative constitutes a framework for that unified strategy towards ATM system modernisation. Offering a structure in line with expected operational benefits, ASBUs will support investment and implementation processes by making the relationships between needed technologies and operational improvements more clearly understood.

In the end, traffic is traffic. When people experience too much of it on their roads they expect wider roads. When they experience it in air travel they expect those of us with the knowledge and capabilities at our disposal to do something about it. The dangers and delays of over-congestion are not acceptable to travellers and they are not acceptable to ICAO.

This is why we are taking a lead role to help co-ordinate activities into a global plan of action for States and aviation as a whole.

 

About the Author

Nancy Graham joined the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2007 as the Director of the Air Navigation Bureau.

Nancy has lead the Air Navigation Bureau through a major transformation, broadening its scope to include the full spectrum of safety and efficiency programmes which are outlined in the new Global Aviation Safety Plan (to be released in 2012) and the new Global Air Navigation Plan (released following the 12th Air Navigation Conference, planned for late 2012). The Aviation Safety Plan outlines the current state of global aviation safety (through ICAO’s audit programme and information shared with and through other aviation partners) and provides key safety initiatives which are being undertaken to address safety risks by ICAO, its member States and aviation partners. The Air Navigation Plan outlines a series of Aviation System Block Upgrades (ASBU) which provide a framework to harmonise the mature aviation transformation programmes currently in development around the globe.

Nancy is a strong believer in partnership with aviation’s international organisations and works to foster joint activities to improve aviation safety and efficiency.

Prior to joining ICAO, Nancy was an executive with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a number of years, serving in a variety of capacities around the world.

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