FAA chief allays compatibility concerns

A senior US official insists that joint efforts between the US and Europe to establish compatible air traffic control systems are progressing well despite an earlier warning sounded by a senior colleague.

Speaking last week at a SESAR workshop, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Michael Huerta said economic uncertainties and challenges will neither deter the two trading regions from staying the course with their respective modernisation efforts: NextGen in the US and SESAR in Europe – nor prevent them from ensuring that interoperability remains at the fore of those efforts.

“Despite current challenges, we continue to make great strides on both sides of the Atlantic. Our interaction is one of the reasons we’ve made so much collective progress,” said Huerta.

That contradicts a warning that the US and Europe are moving in different directions and risk undermining progress on both sides of the Atlantic. John Hickey, one of the FAA’s top safety officials, told a US-European safety summit earlier the same month that he was becoming ‘greatly concerned about divergent paths’, including conflicting timetables and technical standards.

Hickey’s comments reflect concern that a two-speed political and economic deployment timetable could prompt further rifts and complications

Huerta however sought to reassure, noting, “While we don’t always agree on every single approach, we all share the same vision of an effective, safe, and environmentally sound aviation system.”

He cited transatlantic efforts to develop a streamlined data model to transmit flight information across borders which will help flights traverse international boundaries more, and offer a harmonised way for air navigation service providers to communicate with one another.

Huerta said the US also sought to partner more with other countries and regions such as Japan, which is developing the CARATS system. “Global interoperability must span far and wide, and that is why we must reach out to as many of our counterparts as possible,” he said.

“Our work together must also be done in tandem with ICAO,” he added. “ This organisation is uniquely placed to promote a safe, efficient, and environmentally sound global aviation system.  Just last week, we met with the Air Navigation Commissioners, and talked about how we can move forward together on modernisation efforts. A full discussion ensued about how the Global Air Navigation Plan and the block upgrade concept are key to global development and harmonisation.”

Huerta said the FAA will soon be considering these ideas at the ICAO Assembly in September, building on the agreements made at last year’s Air Navigation Conference. “We also encourage the use of ICAO’s regional planning and implementation groups to help develop the way forward that works for each particular region.”

Posted in CAAs/ANSPs, News, NextGen, SESAR

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