Next-Generation Systems Moving Forward, FAA Says

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Tests of an airborne networking system that will help make possible the next-generation air transportation system (NGATS) were successfully completed over the summer, the FAA said this week. The trials showed that messages can be relayed air-to-air, enabling radio communications to reach very long distances, greater than the curvature of the earth normally allows. This capability was achieved by establishing connectivity between a distant aircraft, an intermediate-placed aircraft and a ground station. Tests were conducted using a Bombardier Global 5000 business jet. The project engineers successfully relayed messages and simulated flight-planning information from one aircraft to another, and then to the ground station, over an extended airborne network. An e-mail message was successfully sent to 172 people during one of the flight tests from 140 miles out over the ocean. This transmission could never have been accomplished without the use of airborne networking technology, the FAA said, and was the first-ever civil aviation flight test of this kind. Further tests, planned for later this fall, will include the addition of a third aircraft to the experiment, multiple ground stations and an extended relay capability of the airborne network.

The FAA also said this week it has completed the deployment of the User Request Evaluation Tool (URET) at all 20 FAA Air Route Traffic Control Centers around the country. URET is a conflict-detection tool that automatically detects and advises air traffic controllers of predicted conflicts between aircraft or between aircraft and special activity airspace within the National Airspace System. This strategic planning tool allows controllers to create alternative conflict-free flight routings and to efficiently manage changing air traffic or weather conditions.