FAA's FY2001 equipment budget sees 10% authorization boost

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Mid-2001 is the date the Federal Aviation Administration is now quoting for the award of the contract to develop and produce the computers and automation required for its Advanced Oceanic Techniques and Procedures (ATOP) program.

After many technical and funding delays, the FAA had  planned to award the ATOP contract in 2000, but the program took yet another year-long delay. The contract will provide the automation needed to upgrade its oceanic air traffic control centers to be able to support oceanic operations with future air navigation system (FANS) equipment.

Now, however, the FAA is authorized to spend $51.9 million on ATOP in its fiscal year 2001 budget and no less than $209.2 million in the fiscal years 2002 through 2005.

The FAA's associate administrator for research and acquisitions, Steve Zaidman, revealed the ATOP numbers, along with those of other big program winners in the FY2001 and FY2002-2005 budgets, at a symposium in Washington DC yesterday by the Air Traffic Control Association on implementation of the AIR-21 Act.

Zaidman says that while the FAA's operations budget has only grown 1% a year on average from FY1992 to FY2001, its facilities and equipment (F&E) budget within the overall ops funding is authorized to grow 10% from FY2001 to FY2002 and to grow further in FY2003.

"The money the FAA needs to be spending needs to be related to the services and growth of services" that the US aviation industry is asking it to provide, says Zaidman.

He believes the increase in capital costs associated with all the new technologies, programs and capabilities the FAA is now developing "is putting additional pressure on the ops budget, something we have to be micro-managing".

Among the biggest program winners in the FAA's FY2001 budget authorization is the air traffic control tower/TRACON upgrade program, jumping from an authorized level of $78.9 million in FY2000 to $145.5 million in FY2001. The program is authorized for another $439.5 million in the fiscal years 2002-2005.

Another big winner is the FAA's program to modernize its en route air traffic services automation. This program had no funding authorization in FY2000, but is authorized for a $33 million allocation in FY2001.

The Free Flight Phase 1 program is authorized for continuing high allocations through FY2002, going from a $179.6 million appropriation in FY2000 to a $169.9 million authorization in FY2001 and a $121.3 authorization in FY2002. Zaidman says the FAA plans to complete Free Flight Phase 1 in 2002.

Free Flight Phase 2 has received its first FAA budget authorization, a $15 million figure for FY2001 targeted for datalinking and research and development work.

Aeronautical data linking (ADL), a new and growing FAA program closely tied to its Safe Flight 21, Free Flight 1 and 2 and ATOP programs, received a $25 million appropriation in FY2000.

Another $34.1 million is authorized for FY2001, as the FAA works to put the controller-pilot data link communications (CPDLC) system part of ADL into initial operation at the Miami Airport key test site by September this year.

Following this CPDLC "Build 1" capability at Miami, the FAA plans to follow it up with improved Build 1A capability by September 2003, and to achieve Build 1A capability throughout the USA by December 2005. Development and deployment of CPDLC Build 2 and Build 3 capability would then begin and would continue for several more years.

Another new FAA program, its airport surface detection equipment (ASDE-X) ground movement radar system for secondary US airports, is given an $8 million authorization for FY2001 after a $7.6 million appropriation in FY2000.

ASDE-X is also authorized for another $186.7 million in FY2002-2005, following the September 2000 award of a production contract for 25 systems.

Prevention of runway incursions and aircraft-aircraft or aircraft-ground vehicle collisions at the USA's busiest airports is also a major FAA priority, for which it is developing its AMASS ground surveillance system.

AMASS received a $20.5 million appropriation in the FAA's FY2000 budget and is authorized for another $20.5 million in FY2001, as well as $33.1 million more in FY2002-2005.

The FAA's Safe Flight 21 initiative, which includes the automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) development work carried out by the joint industry-FAA Ohio River Valley project as well as the Capstone navigation safety initiative in Alaska, is authorized for $35 million in FY2001 after receiving an appropriation of $16 million in FY2000.

Capstone will receive $12.2 million of the $35 million, with the Ohio River Valley project authorized to receive the lion's share of $22.8 million. Another $111.9 million is authorized for Safe Flight 21 in FY2002-2005.

$520.6 million is authorized for the agency's big standard terminal automation replacement system (STARS), because the agency is outfitting all of its terminal radar control (TRACON) centers between now and September 2008 and is planning to equip 135 in the 2002-2005 period. It fitted out four centers in 2000 and is outfitting nine in 2001.

"I think we've made significant progress in STARS after many years of failure," says Zaidman, but adds that the FAA's wide area augmentation system (WAAS) program "is not such a happy story".

Although WAAS received an $80 million budget appropriation in FY2000 and authorizations of $77.7 million and $579.4 million for FY2001 and FY2002-2005 respectively, Zaidman believes 2001 will be a crunch year for the program in which the FAA must see results from its spending or Congress will kill the program.

"I think this is going to be a tell-tale year for WAAS," he says. "Our mistake was, we treated WAAS like a ground system" for certification planning, instead of a hybrid ground-airborne system, which requires a hugely more complex certification exercise.

He admits the FAA still does not have a date for WAAS initial operating capability, the program still suffering from the enormous certification complexity of proving the integrity of the WAAS signal at every point in a volume of airspace covering nearly half the Northern Hemisphere.

Zaidman says the government-industry review board that the US Congress set up to look at the WAAS program is scheduled to make its recommendations at the end of this month and the FAA will know more then about the program's future.

He believes the review board's view of progress on the WAAS program and its future potential will come out "favorable", but adds: "The devil is in the details. I think we have to prove we can do it this year."

LAAS, the local area augmentation system under development by a joint industry-FAA partnership, is a complete contrast to the troubled WAAS program. LAAS goes from a zero appropriation in FY2000 to a $37 million authorization in the FAA's FY2001 budget, and an additional total authorization of $202.4 million in FY2002-2005.

"We're going to have to accelerate it, but we know we're going to succeed because [its] technical integrity is not as difficult to prove" as that of WAAS, says Zaidman.

Other FAA equipment programs that receive budget authorizations for FY2001 include programs to upgrade the agency's existing ASR-9 air surveillance radars and its ASDE-3 airport surface detection equipment passive surveillance radars.