Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Key investments, public-private pacts put Worcester Regional Airport (KORH) on a course toward growth

Since 2010, thanks to critical capital investments, private-public partnerships, and new ownership, Worcester Airport has experienced a rebirth and is poised for continued growth.

In the past, Worcester Airport struggled to maintain airline service and was unable to make infrastructure improvements necessary to attract airlines. That changed in 2010, when the the Massachusetts Port Authority assumed ownership of the airport.

Massport has made significant investments in the airport and has committed $70 million in capital improvements over the next five years, including the CAT III landing system. This system will allow planes to safely land during bad weather, rather than be diverted to another airport.

Massport leveraged relationships with airlines that serve Logan Airport to market the benefits of Worcester. That effort resulted in a major victory when JetBlue began two flights per day from Worcester to Florida in 2013. JetBlue was the first major air carrier to offer service in almost a decade. Almost 120,000 passengers flew the Worcester JetBlue service in 2015. Early numbers from 2016 show that number will grow.

The airport is wisely pursuing a diversified growth strategy that focuses on general and corporate aviation too. Over 90 percent of air traffic is due to general and corporate activity. Recently, Rectrix, a private operator, opened a $5 million facility at Worcester Airport that provides corporate aviation services, private charters, and aircraft maintenance. This private investment validates the airport’s strategy.

Airports generate significant economic activity and jobs in our communities. Worcester Airport is no exception. A report by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation found that Worcester Airport generated $46.5 million in economic activity and was responsible for 360 direct and indirect jobs.

Boston has a stake in Worcester Airport’s success too. Logan Airport has limited expansion possibilities. In the future, Worcester can be an alternative for domestic flights, allowing Logan to attract more long-haul and international routes.

The recent successes at Worcester Airport demonstrate that the efforts of the private and public sectors are working, and that Worcester Airport’s best days are ahead.

Tim Murray


Rich Davey


Murray is the president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and the former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. Davey is the former Massachusetts secretary of transportation.

Original article can be found here: https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/letters

Pine Bottom Aviation: Using a helicopter to make sure the lights stay on

YORK COUNTY, Pa.– Turning the lights on is something we take for granted. It takes crews to make sure we are able to have the power to our homes. Not every power line is located along a road. Some are tucked away in woods and hard to reach areas.

“There could be things back where you don’t see everyday,” Adams Electric Cooperative Lineman Craig Mummert said.

The crews uses a helicopter to go up in the sky to see the lines and look for problems.

“It’s very beneficial to use the helicopter and get these things looked at if problems arise,” he said.

They use a helicopter and pilot from Pine Bottom Aviation. The crews go up in the late winter when the trees are not bloomed.

“You’re up there looking for things. It’s not just a joyride,” Mummert said.

In the sky they use an iPad to look at the map of their lines and mark down.

If they find an issue, they mark it down and report it to the supervisor.

“We’ve had problems where we’ve landed, immediately called back to have it taken care of that day and others where we take care of it the next day,” Mummert said.

He said if they didn’t use the helicopter it would take weeks to check the lines, instead of just a few days.

“In just a matter of seconds to a minute you can see it and mark the problems,” Mummert said.

Original article can be found here:  http://fox43.com

Air Force gets more time to answer lawsuit over Davis-Monthan training

The Air Force has been given an extra month, until late April, to respond to a federal lawsuit alleging that the service failed to adequately study the environmental effects of expanding a military training program at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Three Tucson residents filed the lawsuit Jan. 22, challenging the Air Force’s finding last year that the expansion of its Total Force Training program would create “no significant impact” and asking the court to order a detailed environmental impact statement.

The Air Force said it needed more time to file a detailed response.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Jacqueline Rateau approved a stipulation between the parties on March 15, shifting the deadline for the Air Force’s initial response form March 25 to April 25.

Original article can be found here:  http://tucson.com

New Hampshire's Former Drug Czar to Lead Dillant-Hopkins Airport (KEEN), Keene, Cheshire County

After stepping down as New Hampshire's so-called drug czar earlier this year, Jack Wozmak is taking on an entirely different role as manager of the Dillant-Hopkins Airport in Keene.

Wozmak will start the job this week after signing a one-year contract, according to a release issued Monday.

The single-runway airport is in North Swanzey and is owned and operated by the city of Keene.

Wozmak, a former Cheshire County administrator, resigned as the state's senior director for substance misuse and behavioral health last month amid criticism from Republicans and some law enforcement agencies.

Original article can be found here:  http://nhpr.org

Maine Airports to Receive Federal Aviation Administration Grants

Three Maine airports are receiving grants, totaling $401,923, from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree made the announcement in a written statement Tuesday.

The money will be used to improve runways.

Brunswick Executive Airport will receive $116,465 to rehabilitate and seal cracks in 16,000 feet of a runway and taxiway to maintain pavement integrity and minimize debris.

Waterville Robert LaFleur Airport is getting $135,458 to acquire land easements to enhance protection on runway approaches.

Knox County Regional Airport was awarded $150,000 to fund an environmental assessment to evaluate impacts related to a runway safety project.

Original article can be found here:  http://wabi.tv

Georgia Sanderson gets wish granted with flight lesson: Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport (KEQY), Monroe, Union County, North Carolina


Pruitt Health resident Georgia Sanderson had a lifelong wish granted Tuesday morning at the Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport.

"I’m excited and I’m nervous," Sanderson said as she boarded a single-engine airplane and prepared to take the controls.

Sanderson has long dreamed of flying an airplane and - at 70 years old - her wish came true.

"A family friend used to take me up as a little girl in his plane, and I guess I just got the bug," she said.

Sanderson is a resident at Pruitt Health-Union Pointe in Monroe. As a part of the Second Wind Dreams program, she was asked what her dream would be. 

"Our administrator happens to be a pilot, so he was able to work with the local airport to get this set up for Ms. Sanderson," said Pruitt Health employee Anita Gray.

Tuesday morning, the air was a little cool but the Carolina sky was as clear as it could be when Sanderson took to her dream in the sky. She was able to fly the plane for much of the trip with her pilot also helping keep the plane in control.

"I said they better clear a pretty big place for me to land," Sanderson said with a giggle.

She didn’t actually land the plane, but the smile on her face when she landed was larger than life.

"I could really get used to that," she said.

Original article can be found here:  http://www.wbtv.com

Fatal accident occurred March 07, 2016 in Kingston, Roane County, Tennessee

Sheriff: Fatal ultralight crash apparently ‘freak accident’ 

KINGSTON — The fatal crash of an ultralight piloted by a Rocky Top man who had recently purchased the motorized aircraft remains under investigation, but authorities say the crash was likely an unusual accident on a windy day.

Brian Donald Bauer, 35, was doing ground maneuvers March 7 when a gust of wind suddenly caused the aircraft to become airborne and veer into power lines before crashing.

"It was one of those freak accidents that occurred," Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton said.

Bauer was doing maneuvers with the Firefly brand ultralight at a private air strip off Wolf Creek Road east of Kingston when the "wind got up under the wings" and picked the aircraft up, Stockton said.

Bauer's girlfriend witnessed the crash, according to a Roane County Sheriff's Office incident report. Bauer was taken by ambulance to Fort Loudoun Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead, according to the report.

An official with the National Transportation Safety Board said the board didn't investigate the accident because the aircraft wasn't registered and was too small to meet the NTSB's threshold for such investigations.

Funeral services for Bauer were conducted in Ida, Michigan.

Original article can be found here: http://www.knoxnews.com


Date: 07-MAR-16
Time: 17:00:00Z
Regis#: UNKN
Event Type: Accident
Highest Injury: Fatal
Damage: Unknown
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Nashville FSDO-19
State: Tennessee

Beech G36 Bonanza, N596DS, Beechcraft Corporation: Incident occurred March 22, 2016 near McPherson Airport (KMPR), Kansas

Date: 22-MAR-16 
Time: 19:00:00Z
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: None
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Wichita FSDO-64
State: Kansas


BEECHCRAFT CORP: http://registry.faa.gov/N596DS

McPHERSON, Kan. (WIBW) -- A total loss of engine forced a small plane to land on a McPherson Co. road early Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, Ian Barnhart left Eisenhower Airport, in Wichita, around 12:30 p.m. and was taking the plane on a routine flight check.

While over McPherson Co., the 22-year-old pilot and his passenger, Michael Parisi, 23, noticed mechanical indicators that prompted them to try an emergency landing. As they approached the blacktop, they suffered a total loss of engine power that forced them to land on 21st Ave. near the Overland Rd. intersection.

On their way down, KHP says they clipped a power line that damaged the landing gear of the plane.

Neither Barnhart nor Parisi were hurt in the landing.

Original article can be found here: http://www.wibw.com

MCPHERSON, Kansas – The Kansas Highway Patrol is on the scene of an emergency landing in McPherson County. 

It is happening at 21st and Overland in a rural part of the county.

Troopers are advising that there is no damage to aircraft, and there are no injuries.

Original article can be found here:  http://ksn.com

No one was hurt after a plane landed on a road in McPherson County Tuesday.

Emergency dispatchers tell us the plane landed on 21st Avenue and Overland.

The pilot called 911.

Dispatchers say the pilot was doing an engine check and possibly had a problem with fuel flow.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

Original article can be found here: http://www.kwch.com

No one was hurt when a small airplane made an emergency landing on a rural McPherson County road Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, troopers responded to a “plane down” call early in the afternoon.

First responders found a small aircraft on the ground, at 21st and Overland.

There was no damage to the aircraft, and there were no injuries.

The incident is under investigation.

Original article can be found here:  http://www.ksal.com

Flydubai Boeing 737-800, A6-FDN, Flight FZ-981: Fatal accident occurred March 19, 2016 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia

NTSB Identification: DCA16RA108
Scheduled 14 CFR
Accident occurred Saturday, March 19, 2016 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia
Aircraft: BOEING 737, registration:
Injuries: 62 Fatal.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

The Russian Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) has notified the NTSB of an accident involving a BOEING 737 that occurred on March 19, 2016. The NTSB has appointed a U.S. Accredited Representative to assist the MAK investigation under the provisions of ICAO Annex 13 as the State of Manufacturer and Design of the airplane.

All investigative information will be released by the MAK.

Leaked flight log of the co-captain of flight FZ981 Alejandro Cruz Alava.

An accident involving a Flydubai plane was inevitable, a former Flydubai captain told RT on condition of anonymity. He revealed that pilots are forced to work while exhausted, while saying he had been “worked to death” despite complaints.

Speaking to RT in Doha, the former pilot said Flydubai’s top management was aware of the issue, but had done nothing to resolve it. “When I was still at the company, one of the last things I told management is that there would be an accident because of pilot fatigue,” he said. 

The reason for fatigue is simple – pilots are being repeatedly overworked and not given enough time to sleep between flights.

The whistleblower provided documents showing that pilots, junior pilots in particular, are being assigned multiple flight shifts in a row. He argued that the crew often does not have enough time for sleep readjustment.

“Everybody at the company has these dangerous shifts from day flight to night flight, and then back to a day flight, and then back to a night flight, and it has definitely been a big issue for a long time.”

‘Fatigue a contributing factor to Flydubai’s Boeing crash in Rostov-on-Don’
The former captain added he was sure that sleep deprivation had contributed to the Flydubai flight FZ981 crash in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, which killed all 62 passengers and crew on board.

“The way that [Flydubai] … builds the schedules does not account for circadian rhythm … they do not allow pilots to get the right amount of rest, or the proper rest before a flight, and that is exactly what both of these pilots were, the situation that they were in, for sure,” the pilot said.

RT also obtained the flight log of the co-captain of flight FZ981, which revealed that Alejandro Cruz Alava had worked for 11 days with only one day off prior to the crash. The whistleblower commented on the documents, stating that Alava had been transferred from day flights to night flights without being given enough time to readjust his sleep pattern.

“[Alava] was working eleven days in a row with the exception of one day off, which was Tuesday March 15th,” the former pilot said. “There’s is no doubt he was fatigued and exhausted for this flight ... that definitely was a contributing factor, no matter how [Flydubai] may try to deny it.”

Moreover, the captain of the flight, Aristos Socratous, had reportedly filed paperwork containing his resignation because of the unbearable schedule, and only had a few weeks left to fly, according to unnamed colleagues of the deceased.

“The reason that the captain was resigning is because of the schedules, he just couldn’t do it anymore. He was too tired, going to work fatigued, and that is actually why he had resigned.”

An Air Safety Report (ASR) from September 2015 seen by RT shows that many pilots reported showing up for work feeling exhausted and overworked. 

One of the submissions read: “I called in fatigued today for a 0125 local report. Prior to this I had 10 days duty with one day off. Those duties consisted of two 18-30 hour rest periods, a layover, 2 very early reports and 2 long double sector days. The combination of this has meant that I have had very little quality sleep throughout this roster period. I would also contribute the previous month’s roster, where I was roster for 92 hours, a contributing factor to fatigue that I am feeling.”

Another submission said: “Called fatigued … Was unable to get sufficient sleep before start of standby, albeit all efforts made … Issue is if I am called off standby for a long duty … that’s potentially well over 24 hours no sleep operating a flight.”

Flydubai referred to pilots who complained as ‘prima donnas’

The problem of fatigue has been well reported within the airline, and most of the pilots foresaw the possibility of a crash due to over-exhaustion. The former pilot cited an internal survey that asked “Do you think there’s going to be a crash?” 

“Over 80% of the pilots that participated … said yes, there will be a crash at Flydubai. And it’s unbelievable, I mean they knew this was coming, they absolutely knew it and of course they will blame it on the pilots.”

Rather than trying to fix the problem, Flydubai reportedly created a culture that shamed pilots for feeling tired, calling them “prima donnas” if they complained. 

“I know when I was still with Flydubai there were meetings every two weeks with the chief pilot … In most of those meetings [sleep deprivation] was always brought up and in fact in one of the meetings, the chief pilot referred to us as a bunch of prima donnas, like we complain too much, that’s exactly what he said. He said, ‘you guys are just a bunch of prima donnas.’”

Aviation experts inspect the flight recorder from the crashed Boeing 737-800 Flight FZ981 operated by Dubai-based budget carrier Flydubai, in Moscow, Russia, March 20, 2016.

Even worse, is that this type of hectic schedule is technically legal. “A lot of things legal that are just wrong, so [the airline] did have a legal schedule but it was not a healthy schedule,” the whistleblower said.

Moreover, the safety culture within the airline was poor, he said, citing an incident when Flydubai shipped chemical oxygen generators on an aircraft from their maintenance base to Dubai and then covered it up.

Reports of pilots falling asleep while flying

Falling asleep while flying has happened before at Flydubai, and sometimes even went unreported.

“I remember one report, when I still worked there, a pilot filed a safety report saying that him and another pilot fell asleep after taking off from one of the out stations and they were probably asleep for about eight minutes … I know that sounds crazy but it is extremely easy to fall asleep. It’s the same noise level and it’s quite boring, and the autopilot is on,” the former captain said. In addition, flying fatigue makes any pilot more vulnerable, he added.

The consequences for falling asleep at Flydubai are none at all, according to the former captain.

“There have been people report[ing] that they have completely fallen asleep at the controls at Flydubai and their company doesn’t do anything,” he said.

At other airlines, reports of sleeping during a flight usually lead to medical examinations, with the doctor particularly on the lookout for chronic fatigue and sleep apnea.

In giving his reasons for speaking out, the former pilot said people need to be aware of what is going on behind the scenes at Flydubai.

“It’s ridiculous that there’s been an aviation industry for so long and this stuff is still going on. And you hear about people being worked to death. I had some months at Flydubai where I really felt like I was being worked to death. And I just couldn’t do it. [People] buy an airplane ticket and they assume that they are safe on the airplane, but the way that an airline like Flydubai rosters their pilots, it’s not safe. It’s not safe at all,” he said.

Story, video and photos:  https://www.rt.com

Cirrus SR22T, JA01YK: Incident occurred March 21, 2016 at Kagoshima Airport, Japan

KAGOSHIMA – A small plane that attempted to land at Kagoshima Airport ended up stopping in the middle of its sole runway Monday after sustaining damage to its propeller and landing gear.

The transport ministry’s Kagoshima Airport office said the aircraft’s 49-year-old male pilot and four female passengers were safe, but labeled it a serious incident and dispatched three investigators on Tuesday.

The accident occurred at around 1:20 p.m. after the Cirrus SR22T left Nagasaki Airport. It was scheduled to land at Kagoshima Airport in Kirishima at 1:45 p.m., the airport office said.

The accident closed the runway for 4½ hours, forcing the cancellation of 58 flights and the diversion of six others.

Police said Tuesday that the pilot encountered problems when landing a different small plane at the same airport in April last year when the landing gear failed to deploy.

Original article can be found here: http://www.japantimes.co.jp

Man removed from San Diego flight for making alleged threats

SAN DIEGO – A male passenger was removed from a San Francisco-bound plane at Lindbergh Field just prior to take off Tuesday morning after he allegedly made concerning remarks. 

The man was escorted off United Airlines Flight 662 just after 7 a.m. while the plane was parked at the gate. He was removed by United Airlines staff because he was “saying things that caused concern,” according to a Lindbergh Field spokesperson.  A United spokesperson added that he made threatening remarks that were enough to make the flight crew uncomfortable. 

The plane was scheduled for takeoff at 7:13 a.m., but did not depart until 7:36 a.m. It was scheduled to land in San Francisco at 8:48 a.m. 

Officers with the San Diego Harbor Police Department transported the man to San Diego County Behavioral Health Services for a mental evaluation. 

Original article can be found here: http://www.10news.com

Republic Airways Can Use Bankruptcy to Return Embraer Planes

Republic Airways Holdings Inc. won permission to use the bankruptcy process to return what it says are some of its less attractive airplanes and engines. 

The company can turn over six Embraer SA E145 regional jets and three engines to Citibank NA, an agent to an outstanding loan, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane in Manhattan said Tuesday. It also obtained permission to reject the lease for a seventh Embraer plane.

Indianapolis-based Republic calls the move “a first step” in getting rid of “excess owned equipment” as it reorganizes under Chapter 11. 

Citibank said the aircraft or engines at stake in the current motion are collateral under a revolving credit facility that now has a balance of $23 million. Lane said that Citibank, which had complained that some of the aircraft had been separated from their engines, will have to bring legal claims later if it can’t work out a resolution.

“I reject the notion that Citi is entitled to have its airframes married with its engines -- or to even be in the same facility,” the judge said.

300 Planes

Republic owns or leases about 300 aircraft and is seeking to slim down to a single family type of Embraer 170/175s, while returning “out of favor” types. Those include Q400 turboprops and the smaller E145s and E140s, according to court papers.

The regional carrier has been working to slim down by flying the more popular 70- to 88-seat E170s and E175s, which are bigger than the E145s. The E170 and E175 are considered the same fleet type, and flying a single type saves money by simplifying employee training and reducing the number of spare parts that must be kept on hand.

Citibank called Republic’s proposal for returning the aircraft unreasonable. The bank said it learned for the first time on March 18 that engines for the frames weren’t in the same place as the planes and that some belonged to unidentified third parties.

The case is In re Republic Airways Holdings Inc., 16-10429, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Original article can be found here: http://www.bloomberg.com

Cessna 172S Skyhawk, N812SA: Incident occurred March 21, 2016 in McAllen, Hidalgo County, Texas

Date: 21-MAR-16
Time: 23:45:00Z
Regis#: N812SA
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 172
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Damage: Unknown
Activity: Instruction
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA San Antonio FSDO-17
State: Texas


MCCREERY AVIATION CO INC: http://registry.faa.gov/N812SA

Key evidence ‘missing’ in air crash investigation: Hawker Hunter T.Mk 7, Canfield Hunter Ltd., G-BXFI, fatal accident occurred August 22, 2015 near Shoreham Airport

A High Court hearing is needed to obtain ‘missing’ evidence into the Shoreham air crash, Sussex Police has revealed.

An inquest into the death of eleven people who died when a Hawker Hunter jet crashed during a display at the Shoreham Airshow on August 22, 2015, may not be held until March 2017 at the earliest.

Penelope Schofield, senior coroner for West Sussex, received an update on the current investigations by Sussex Police and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) at a pre inquest review held in Horsham today (March 22).

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Rymarz, of Sussex Police said: “There has been a significant delay in obtaining some material in this case because of the legislsation that governs the investigation of such incidents.”

Regulations prevent the AAIB from sharing ‘protected material’, which can include cockpit recorders and footage, witness accounts, expert reports and some documentation.

DCI Rymarz added: “Material that is believed to be held by AAIB is being applied for via a High Court application that is currently awaiting a hearing. These applications are rare and it has taken some time to progress this line of enquiry.”

He said the police investigation cannot progress effectively without this material as ‘key evidence is missing’.

Once the information held by the AAIB is obtained, Police and the CPS will be able to determine whether any criminal offences may have been committed, by whom and whether it would be in the public interest to prosecute.

Penelope Schofield read the names of the eleven who died in the air crash last summer.

They were Maurice Rex Abrahams, 76 of Brighton, Dylan Archer, 42 of Brighton, Anthony David Brightwell, 53 of Hove, Matthew Grimstone, 23 of Brighton, Matthew Wesley Jones, 24 of Littlehampton, James Graham Mallinson, 72 of Newick, Daniele Gaetano Polito, 23 of Goring by Sea, Mark Alexander Reeves, 53 of Seaford, Jacob Henry Schilt, 23 of Brighton, Richard Jonathan Smith, 26 of Hove and Mark James Trussler, 54 of Worthing.

Andy Hill, the pilot who was flying the Hawker Hunter was not present at the hearing and was not represented.

The final AAIB report is expected to be published in summer.

The coroner set the date for a second pre-inquest review to take place on September 19 at Parkside in Horsham and indicated that the full inquests are likely to take place in March 2017.

Ms Schofield reiterated her intention to hold a ‘full and fearless’ investigation into the deaths of the eleven men.

She said the inquest will address the incidents that led up to the Hawker Hunter jet aircraft ‘tragically’ crashing at the air show, the organisation of the airshow and aerobatic displays, the actions of the pilot both before and during the event and the safety of the aircraft.

Since the start of the investigation, Police have obtained approximately 330 statements, nearly 3,500 documents and have obtained images and video from more than 200 members of the public.

Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and a partner in the Irwin Mitchell aviation team, is an advocate for several families at the pre-inquest review hearing and the inquest.

He said: “This is likely to be a lengthy and complicated inquest and crucially it gives families the opportunity to put questions, themselves or through their legal representatives, to key witnesses involved in the tragedy and the investigation.

“We hope the inquest process will pull all relevant evidence together and provide a complete and detailed picture of the full chain of events that led to this this terrible disaster.

“We have heard from the AAIB’s recent Special Bulletin how the safety of air shows can be improved. The recommendations are welcomed but it is a matter of deep regret that it has taken the terrible loss of life at Shoreham before these recommendations, many of which are common sense, have been made.

“The families want to understand the entirety of the safety precautions undertaken prior to the doomed flight of the Hawker Hunter aircraft at Shoreham on 22nd August, 2015. They also want to know exactly what improvements will be implemented by the authorities, so that they and the general public can be confident in the safety of future air shows.

“From the three Special Bulletin that have been published so far there are clear learning points from what happened at Shoreham which the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) must take into account. It is crucial that the safety recommendations are implemented into its policies and guidance as soon as possible.”

Read more: http://www.shorehamherald.co.uk

A Push for Friendlier Skies: Companies, governments urge development of shared-navigation standards for planes

A Global Positioning System IIF-series satellite. U.S. aerospace firms and the government want a worldwide standard for navigation. 

By Andy Pasztor
March 20, 2016 6:35 p.m. ET

U.S. aerospace companies and government officials are pushing to develop new cockpit-equipment standards that eventually would allow aircraft to fully utilize local satellite-navigation systems across Europe, China, Russia and other areas.

Efforts to draft such common technical benchmarks, discussed at an industry meeting in Washington, D.C., last week, aim to enhance safety by permitting airliners and other planes to supplement signals from U.S.-operated Global Positioning Satellites with those broadcast by separate regional or national space constellations or even ground-based technology.

The ultimate goal is more precise and redundant location information worldwide—regardless of airline or aircraft type.

The concept has been discussed in principle for years, but now many industry leaders and regulators increasingly are advocating joint standards leading to functional commonality of airborne computers and flight-management technology.

The GPS constellation remains the gold standard in terms of coverage and reliability. But navigation and safety experts believe augmenting it with signals tailored to local practices and conditions would provide additional flexibility, as well as greater redundancy.

The strategy has been endorsed by plane makers and avionics manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic, where commonality among various types of equipment is further advanced than in many other parts of the globe.

“There has been a lot of talk over the last year or so about increasing the coordination” between European and U.S. experts who want to devise joint satellite-navigation standards, Anna von Groote of Europe’s standard-setting body said during last week’s session.

Rockwell Collins Inc., Honeywell International Inc. and Garmin International Inc. are among the equipment manufacturers advocating such an approach. It comes as next-gerenation GPS satellites are slated to be updated with additional signals, and the U.S. Air Force continues to have problems with the performance of an upgraded operational control system on the ground.

Officials of RTCA Inc., the Federal Aviation Administration primary technical advisory and standard-setting group, last week also highlighted the effort to reach global consensus standards during their meeting last week.

Christopher Hegarty, chairman of the RTCA’s policy-making Program Management Committee, said “every vendor and user just wants one standard” incorporating various frequencies, and that is also adaptable to multiple constellations.

In all, more than a dozen countries or regions already have installed or committed to deploy primary satellite-navigation or supplemental ground-based systems, according to George Ligler, a veteran member of RTCA’s policy-setting committee. That is why developing common standards “is an imperative need,” he said during the meeting, adding that “it’s compelling logic to do this jointly.”

But expanding the initiative to include China and Russia—which like Europe have their own satellite-navigation networks—poses major diplomatic and technical challenges, experts have warned. India also is pursuing a separate enhanced system.

According to a briefing document prepared for the meeting, RTCA will consider standards encompassing “core constellations” including Russia’s functioning GLONASS network, as well as Europe’s fledgling Galileo constellation and China’s planned BeiDou system. Different standards are scheduled to be published between this fall and 2022.

“Particular attention should be given to meeting [signal] integrity and availability requirements” for all phases of flight, according to the document. Any new standards, the papers said, “should address, to the extent practicable,” potential increases in unintended signal interference.

The standards also should seek to prevent intentional interference or hacking—called “spoofing” of signals—which can end up confusing air-traffic controllers or pilots.

Moreover, the proposals would be coordinated with the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency.

In the U.S., the Air Force operates GPS and is considering options to save money by potentially making future versions of the satellites lighter, according to industry officials. But that is hard to achieve because adding power is one of the main techniques required to make the satellites more resistant to jamming—and that automatically adds weight to the spacecraft.

The broader issue of making all U.S. national-security satellites more resistant to jamming or other hostile acts has been discussed at the “highest levels of the administration,” Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, told an industry gathering earlier this year.

“We’re facing decisions about what to do next” in terms of replacing current constellations with proposed systems that are intended to be more resilient to any kind of outside interference, he said.

Original article can be found here:  http://www.wsj.com