US avionics giant Honeywell is telling Congress it believes its technology solutions can play a significant role in curbing air traffic system congestion and delays, but the company falls short of claiming to have an entire one stop shop answer to the problem.
Speaking before the US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Capitol Hill last week, Honeywell's vice president of new business development for aerospace electronic systems, Mark Howes, highlighted a number of company solutions for addressing what it deems the primary causes of delays: enroute system capacity, airport and terminal area capacity and airline operations.
These include tools for flight planning, datalink, airborne traffic separation management, airport terminal area operations, airline operations scheduling, at-gate processes and unscheduled maintenance, among other's.
Howes says that these solutions "address many of the factors that contribute to traffic delays".
He told the hearing: "It is Honeywell’s opinion that achieving the safe, reliable, cost-effective, high-capacity throughput needed to address consumer demand will require more that just new tools to better automate today’s procedures.
"Instead, we must accelerate the current and emerging technology to create new procedures that optimize the use of our limited airspace and airport resources."
A near-to-mid term solution proposed by Honeywell for improving the flight planning decisions of pilots and dispatchers is the company's enhanced and synthetic vision systems that allow pilots to "see through" weather, essentially converting instrument conditions to good visual flight rule conditions.
In regards datalink technology, Honeywell suggests that airlines need to be properly motivated to upgrade their aircraft with controller-pilot datalink communications (CPDLC).
"We believe this motivation should come in the form of priority handling for those equipped, allowing their investment to positively affect their operations," says Howes.
Honeywell is a member of the Aeronautical Communication International (ACI) consortium of avionics and software companies developing key software components needed for CPDLC.
Howes also points out that adequate funding "is essential to upgrade the infrastructure to provide" successful implementation of CPDLC, which is expected to begin operating in 2002 and migrating throughout the NAS over the following two to four years.
Addressing airborne traffic separation, Howes proposes that the traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS), of which Honeywell is a leading supplier, should be used "in the early stages" so that pilots can achieve controller-specified and monitored minimum separation distance.
However, he points out that Honeywell recognizes TCAS technology is limited to approximately 100 miles (165km) range and is therefore taking advantage of the available high-precision GPS position data and emerging datalink technology to make a more strategic traffic management function - automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) - operational.
Honeywell spokesman Jim Veihdeffer says: "The importance of what we are saying is that solutions exist or are in the works - such as TCAS or CPDLC or ADS-B and other software tools - that if implemented… and if Congress has the foresight…to put into play, it is clear that a meaningful reduction of delays could result."
Veihdeffer concedes, however, that there "are a lot of very good companies and a lot of ways to get" delays reduced.