Interoperability has become a highly controversial topic. Do you think there is a global lack of priority to establish interoperable airspace systems? If so, what are the possible solutions?

Sandy SamuelSandy Samuel, Lockheed Martin: Continued efforts to work together on regional challenges and opportunities will help to move global air traffic management harmonisation forward. As such, we participate in several interoperability initiatives through research and development and demonstrations between NextGen and SESAR. In addition, we also participate on several committees responsible for standardisation of information-sharing between air navigation services providers.

Carol Huegel, Metron Aviation: I am confident that aviation industry professionals across the globe concur that interoperability is essential to global ATM modernisation. Interoperability has long been focused on the aircraft and associated procedures.

Looking forward, it will be equally important to address the interoperability needs with respect to data exchange. Accurate, timely exchange of operational data among all stakeholders will be pivotal to the success of all modernisation programmes.

While there are many industry professionals who understand the technical elements of the various data exchange models, a significant focus on the processes, procedures and policies associated with transparent data exchange is a must. Collaboration among those who will be sharing operational data in compliance with processes, procedures and policies will be essential to interoperability.

Accordingly, while there are many forums available for stakeholders to engage in interoperability discussions, it will be important that the discussions foster an environment whereby a collaborative decision making philosophy is used to balance the technical requirements with the operational needs and respective business models of the stakeholders, specifically airspace users and airport operators.

Steve Fulton, GE Aviation: It is not clear to me that the ground systems across the world are being built to a common concept of operations with coordinated dates for new functions and capability. ICAO has developed the Aviation System Block Upgrade plan which should be very helpful in addressing this concern.

Jim McCoy, Raytheon: Interoperability is critical to the success of the global aviation industry. Under ICAO’s leadership, defining future airspace system upgrades, the community is striving for interoperable systems and, as a global technology leader, Raytheon is playing a key part in this process. Aviation standards also provide an important baseline for interoperability. As air navigation service providers develop modernization strategies which are capable of achieving interoperability across airspace borders, it is up to all of us all to utilize them effectively.

Bobby SturgellBobby Sturgell, Rockwell Collins: Interoperability has been a key theme between NextGen and SESAR for several years and ICAO is working hard to keep the need for interoperability in front of everyone. What has caused things to flare up recently is perhaps the somewhat divergence on data link programmes between the US and EU. Hopefully, that can get resolved over the next couple of years.

You are never going to get perfect co-ordination between NextGen and SESAR, especially with respect to mandates and timelines. But you do want interoperability in the end and all ANSPs should be striving to ensure that happens. The worst thing you can do for your customers – the operators – is to impose additional equipage requirements to perform similar types of operations.

Roberta LeftwichRoberta Leftwich, Booz Allen: Global harmonisation and interoperability have long been a key point of discussion on the world aviation stage. ICAO has set forth a Global ATM Concept, IATA and CANSO has each published on the subject and sovereign nations continue to coordinate with their neighbours and their ICAO regions to achieve some semblance of interoperability.

The idea of truly global interoperability, however, should be carefully examined. Does every nation, regardless of traffic density or airspace characteristics, need to have technology and procedures that are truly of the same level as the rest of the world? CANSO’s Guide to Seamless Airspace lays out one sound approach in which certain airspace characteristics need to be globally or regionally standardised such as phraseology, nav performance requirements, some harmonised such as flight level allocation schemes, and some truly interoperable.

The CANSO document further describes that there should be a minimum set of global requirements with an increasingly advanced set of standards and requirements to be attained over time. This approach takes into account the vast difference among ANSPs in terms of traffic density, ability to undertake large modernisation programmes, and geography.

Chris Benich, Honeywell: No, it doesn’t seem that way. Both initiatives are focused on regional airspace requirements, but at the same time are addressing the importance of interoperability. The need is strongly supported on both sides of the Atlantic and in other regional ATM initiatives, and this is acknowledged as an important priority for airspace modernisation globally.

Todd DonovanTodd Donovan, Thales ATM US: There are three main areas where interoperability is critical.

The first area is the linkage between the aircraft and the ground infrastructure. Standards bodies such as RTCA and EUROCAE do a good job in generating consensus-based global standards. I don’t see a significant issue in this area although reaching consensus can be a challenge as we are witnessing today in the efforts to finalise the Data Comm standards.

The second area is system-to-system interfaces. There are many standards in existence and more being created to facilitate ATM system linkages. While the current approach works, it should improve and become more efficient through global standards for system-to-system interchange.

The other area is in pilot operational procedures. Differing procedures for the same operational concepts in different parts of the world have the potential to generate unnecessary complexity and training, at a minimum, and potentially a real safety issue. Global coordination needs to continue to ensure the more complex future procedures, such as trajectory negotiation, are done consistently globally.

Ed Sayadian, ITT Exelis: The framework for global interoperability exists in the form of the ICAO’s Block Upgrades and standardisation activities. The challenge is that many standardisation and system development activities are moving in parallel. Use of modern software and networking technology can help to mitigate the issue by separating architecture layers and interfaces, and by modularising components. Examples of these include SOA/SWIM architectures and AXIM/FIXM/WIXM data models.

John O'SullivanJohn O’Sullivan, Harris Corporation: Interoperability, while a difficult challenge, has improved tremendously and continues to make progress. There is clearly a priority to establish common systems, processes and procedures throughout the global aviation community. This is evidenced by the work that has been completed through ICAO’s aviation system block upgrades. The results will allow for more data sharing, as well as enable creation of new applications.

At Harris, we’ve seen much progress in this area, specifically though our activities with SWIM in the US and abroad. For example, Harris is participating in Eurocontrol’s SWIM Masterclass and has worked abroad with key ANSPs. To maintain the momentum toward global interoperability, it is imperative that we ensure legacy systems work harmoniously with the standards. Harris participates in organisations, and in demos, focused on vetting these standards — and will continue to do so in an effort to make SWIM a reality worldwide.

Michael CaflischMike Caflisch, Boeing: With few European companies in NextGen and few American ones in SESAR, there will be challenges to focusing on the interoperability question. That is one of the reasons why the roles played by Boeing and Airbus are so important. The FAA and Eurocontrol are attempting to coordinate NextGen and SESAR efforts. ICAO has an interest in promoting ‘One Sky’ through their Global Air Navigation Plan. There is a global priority to establish interoperable airspace systems.

But the unintended consequence of these multiple efforts is similar to the hard part of what Europe is trying to do with SESAR. Disparate global data systems, hardware, infrastructure, processes and procedures – combined with differences in state and regional requirements and priorities – make interoperability extremely challenging.

Work is progressing on the establishment of global standards. But the international community must be careful not to limit or inhibit interoperable solutions. Advancements in technology and the application of those technologies will help to define the future of interoperability in realistic and operationally-driven ways.

Interoperability in avionics is assured through ICAO, RTCA, EASA and other standardisation committees. It doesn’t always work perfectly: a recent example is the different requirements for ADS-B Out performance for different airspace regions. However, it is a much better process than interoperability in ATC procedures and automation systems, where there is basically no formal process for global standardisation. Additionally, there is not a process for ‘synchronizing’ investments in new systems and operations across ANSPs, which does factor into interoperability as experienced by the aircraft operator.

In general, for global interoperability to have priority, the airplane manufacturers, backed by their customer airlines, must continue to make the economic arguments concerning the cost to the aircraft and to the airlines should diverse systems be adopted in different regions of the world.

Posted in Avionics, NextGen, SESAR, US Survey 2013 Tagged with: ,

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