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11 September 2017

Air Navigation and Weather Services (ANWS), a division of the Taiwan Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), has selected Comsoft Solutions’ AMHS in order to transform the way in which they transmit messages and aeronautical data. The Taipei Flight Information Region (FIR) is one of the busiest air transport hubs in Asia, covering 180,000 nm² and bordering five other FIRs (Fukuoka, Manila, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shanghai). Flight volume in the region increased by more than 7% in 2016 alone, and to maintain efficiency and manage flight numbers it was important for ANWS to transform their message handling capabilities. Some 15 countries in the APAC region currently operate a Comsoft Solutions AFTN/AMHS, making Taiwan the 16th country to place its trust in the market-leading product AIDA-NG as their core messaging service.
The delivery includes two identical highly redundant AFTN/AMHS nodes, one working as an operational system at the North ATS Park and the other one working as a contingency system at the South ATS Park. Additionally, an identical test/training and development node will allow ANWS to set up and simulate or reproduce different operational scenarios and thus continuously improve the quality of their messaging services. The core of the system is Comsoft Solutions’ message switch product, AIDA-NG, which is claimed to be the most mature, and only fully integrated, AFTN/AMHS message switch available on the market. Comsoft Solutions’ user terminal system CADAS-ATS supports the operation of up to 300 WEB-based AFTN/AMHS user agent client terminals. The system is completed by a comprehensive redundant network architecture/security appliance (DMZ) and a Comsoft Solutions’ central network monitoring product (CNMS).

The first system of the multi-sensor surveillance Almanac (MLAT), based on purely Russian technology and fully compliant with EUROCAE and ICAO standards, will be deployed in Pulkovo International Airport (LED), Russia. The project is being implemented within the framework of a federal programme known as ‘Modernisation of the Single Air Traffic Management System of the Russian Federation (2009-2020)’, which was approved by the Russian Government. The customer is the State ATM Corporation (Goskorporatsia). The first Russian MLAT is designed to detect aircraft and helicopters equipped with A/C/S/ADS-B 1090 ES mode transponders, ground vehicles, and other objects equipped with ADS-B 1090ES transponders, in the approach zone, on the landing line and the working area of the aerodrome (manoeuvring areas and approach zones, runways, taxiways and parking places of aircraft) using multilateration. The project provides for the installation of transceiving stations that will not only cover the area of Pulkovo Airport, but in the future will be able to provide surveillance as a part of the wide-area modification (WAM) of the Almanac MLAT system

Serbia and Montenegro Air Traffic Services (SMATSA) will open a tender for upgrading the ATM systems in Belgrade, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has said. SMATSA intends to use the proceeds of a loan extended by the EBRD and the European Investment Bank (EIB) to finance the project, which has a total estimated cost of EUR 74.15 million, EBRD said in a tender notice. The proposed project will require the procurement of civil works for the construction of an annex to the existing air traffic control centre Belgrade building. Tendering for the project is expected to begin Q4 2017. It will be open to firms from any country, the EBRD said. SMATSA said earlier that it plans to start building a new control tower at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport (BEG) in autumn 2018. The technical documentation for the project will be ready by June 2018, while construction works will be completed in 2019.

The UK’s NATS has chosen QinetiQ to solve its rostering challenges in a highly complex planning environment. With an operational workforce of 1,500 handling an average of 5,000 to 7,000 flights daily, NATS needs to ensure the allocation of the right people with the right skills at the right time. To achieve this, NATS sought a solution to integrate rosters and resources to increase accuracy and make the planning process more efficient.  NATS CIO, Gavin Walker, described the company’s current planning challenges: “Rosters follow detailed labour rules and regulations; we’re using different planning systems, many of them requiring manual input, so it’s a time-consuming process. The new QinetiQ planning system can support NATS’ business requirements, which includes adherence to the many layers of rostering rules found in our regulated industry. Our requirements are to perform the short-term planning up to nine months ahead as well as support the medium-term planning up to 24 months ahead. Meanwhile, the software allows fast re-planning, respecting those labour rules and regulations, should last-minute disruptions occur. The optimiser function releases planners from time-consuming work every time something changes, so that they can focus their expertise exactly where and when it’s needed.”
The QinetiQ solution will be used to plan for air traffic controller officers (ATCOs), air traffic service assistants (ATSAs), and for support personnel. Employees also have non-operational duties such as project meetings and training that need to be incorporated into the rosters. In addition to the core roster functionality, NATS was also looking to take employee preferences into consideration with a system that can be accessed from home or via mobile. The QinetiQ answer to this is a mobile application, which allows interactive communication between ATCOs or ATSAs and the planners when creating new requests or checking the status of existing requests.

As ICAO prepares to start its latest audit of India under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme on 6 November 2017, the country’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is working hard to resolve the many anomalies in its systems and processes. The 10-day proactive audit includes analysis of flight safety, training and licensing and flight- and duty-time limitations of the DGCA, airports, and airlines. The DGCA has completed the first step, which includes submission of protocol questions (PQ) to ICAO for compliance timelines. ICAO will also check Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) to ensure India exercises good practices. The DGCA, meanwhile, has all CARs to incorporate the latest ICAO amendments.
In 2012 ICAO ranked India as the world’s 13th worst performer in safety; two years later the US FAA downgraded the country to Category 2 from Category 1, effectively halting its airlines from adding flights to the US or entering into any new code-share agreements for a year. Ensuring the certification of non-scheduled airlines, particularly those flying internationally, continues to present a problem, as have a number of inadequacies associated with firefighting equipment, air traffic management and lighting at airports. During a December 2015 audit, ICAO asked what steps the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had taken to ensure an adequate number of air traffic services (ATS) personnel. “In response, the risk assessment and the immediate mitigations measures already put in place by AAI to ensure adequate number of ATS personnel was communicated to ICAO, which accepted the measures adopted,” Jayant Sinha, minister of state for civil aviation, said in parliament last year. However, as Indian skies get more crowded, safety oversights have become common. The DGCA recorded more than 420 air safety violations in 2016, compared with 275 in 2015. According to the directorate, airlines had to suspend 272 pilots and issue warnings to a further 108. “The problem is in the system,” said aviation advisor, G S  Rathee. India’s civil aviation policy of 2016 makes no mention of the formation of an independent civil aviation authority (CAA), cleared in 2013 to replace the DGCA as the safety regulator. Plans called for its functions to include safety oversight, environmental regulation, licensing, international coordination and advising the government on industry development. The status of the new CAA remains unclear, however. “There is no transparency in the DGCA,” said Rathee. “The formation of CAA should be given priority if we want to rid ourselves of these issues. We need fresh manpower with technical expertise,” he said.

Democratic leaders in the US are asking the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to take a fresh look at the costs associated with the House FAA reauthorisation package. They say that changes to the bill and taxes associated with the ATC privatisation proposal would increase the deficit by billions of dollars more than the original estimates. The leaders, including the ranking Democrats of four House committees, noted that the CBO had estimated that the ATC proposal in the 21st Century AIRR Act, HR2997, would increase net deficits by more than USD 20 billion over the next 10 years, and by more than USD 5 billion in subsequent 10-year periods. But since that estimate, “significant changes” have been made to the bill, including the addition of a tax proposal associated with the measure that would separate ATC from the FAA. The proposal “slashes revenues from aviation excise taxes by more than USD 15 billion per year,”  the Democrats said. “In total, these changes … likely add tens of billions of dollars to the cost of the legislation and, thus, the budget deficit,” the ranking Democrat members noted, adding that they were made without legislators being given the opportunity to provide input on the changes. They asked the CBO to provide a full cost estimate by 5 September 2017. The request continues an effort by the Democratic leaders to gather ammunition that could kill the ATC measure.

Abu Dhabi Airports has received the first Aerodrome Flight Information Services (AFIS) certification in the country for Sir Bani Yas Airport (XSB), located on the southern tip of Sir Bani Yas Island. Awarded by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), the UAE’s first AFIS certificate is in accordance with the civil aviation regulations. Abu Dhabi Airports chairman, Awaidah Murshed Al Marar, said: “The successful delivery of this project means that Sir Bani Yas is the first unit within the UAE to obtain this type of certification. “We thank all our partners and stakeholders for their kind support, and look forward to the further development of this airport.” The airport operator attained the certification after its AFIS officers were trained to meet GCAA standards, new AFIS procedures were launched, a new watch tower was established, and technical equipment was installed. GCAA director general, Saif Al Suwaidi, said: “The AFIS regulations are the first in this region, and in fact amongst the first in the world. Thus the issue of a certificate for this service is a new concept, and it has taken a great deal of preparation in order to achieve the high standard necessary for the approval to be awarded.”

Steady growth in air traffic volumes means that Nav Canada can cut base rates for its air navigation services by an average of 3.5% and refund customers 4.6% of past fees, starting from 1 September 2017. The one-time refund will amount to about CAD 60 million and includes taxes paid, the company said, adding that it also will be implementing a one-year rate reduction of 0.4%. The base rate cuts and one-time reduction, which comes at the start of the company’s next fiscal year, cover only commercial aviation customers. Cuts for general aviation will begin on 1 March 2018. The temporary cut extends one that was implemented in 2016.

NATS in the UK has signed a nine-year contract with Belfast International Airport (BFS) in Northern Ireland for the provision of air traffic control and engineering services. Although NATS and BFS have worked together for many years, this contract signals the start of a strategic partnership, which will ensure the continued future success of air traffic control and engineering services at the Airport. The agreement runs from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2026 and involves a full team of controllers and an onsite team of engineers being present at the Airport for the duration of the contract. One of the first key deliverables for NATS has been the introduction of electronic flight strips earlier in 2017, replacing the paper strips that have been used previously. This reduces the controllers’ workload and increases capacity. It is the first ‘Hub and Spoke’ project delivered by NATS in the UK – where the servers are located at NATS’ Swanwick Control Centre in Hampshire and the data is fed to the airport unit.

In Queensland, Australia, Gold Coast Airport (OOL) has begun works on an ILS installation on behalf of Airservices Australia. The airport’s COO, Marion Charlton, said this was an historic milestone for the airport and for the city alike. “The ILS is an important piece of infrastructure which will improve airport reliability and in turn ensure the region is well positioned as a competitive tourism destination,” Ms Charlton said. “This is a project that has been over nine years in the making for our team, so we are thrilled to have recently officially commenced works on the ILS installation. We will work closely with Airservices Australia over the next 12 to 15 months to install the ILS. Construction of the ILS is expected to be completed by the end of 2018, with the system anticipated to be fully operational by 2019. Ms Charlton noted that draft Noise Abatement Procedures (NAPs) had been developed to ensure ILS usage during fine weather conditions would be kept to a minimum. “The development of NAPs was required for the ILS flight path and formed part of the Minister’s approval last year, and the draft procedures will be finalised in consultation with the community,” she said.

Vietnam Air Traffic Management Corporation (VATM) has completed operational trials of the Distributed Multi-Nodal ATFM Operational Trial between Viet Nam and Singapore. The air traffic will be managed based on a common principle between participants. Accordingly, the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (VATM), Changi Airport, and Vietnam Airlines will focus on balancing air traffic demand capacity by regulating flight arrivals at the departure airport with the issuance of calculated takeoff times (CTOT). “In simpler terms, the participants will check the CTOT so that when the flight takes off it can land on time, and does not have to hover in the air waiting for a landing slot,” an official from the VATM said, adding that the delay would take place on the ground, not in the air. Once the operational trial has been completed, the VATM will review its efficiency.

Indra has signed a contract to renew the air traffic automation systems for three AirNav Indonesia air traffic control centres (ATCC). The company will implement its systems at the ATCCs of Palembang and Pekanbaru, in Sumatra, and Tanjung Pinang, in the Riau islands. This technology is required to improve security and facilitate the management of a greater number of flights. In recent years, Indra has modernised the Jayapura control centre at Sentani International Airport (DJJ), which manages flights in all of New Guinea; the Medan control centre in Juala Namu, which controls all of the air traffic of the island of Sumatra; and the Berau control centre, which manages traffic in Borneo. Indra has also rolled out a network of radar systems to cover about 70% of the country’s airspace.