Julian Moxon/PARIS

European airlines are still resisting the introduction by Eurocontrol of advanced Mode S, citing "serious doubts" as to its technical and operational validity.

Mode S surveillance is being pushed by the agency as an essential means of solving expected near-term radar capacity shortfalls. Its latest report says recent cost benefit analysis showed that the initial system would provide a large increase in surveillance capacity.

The report was rejected by the Association of European Airlines (AEA)as "lacking sufficient depth", however. The AEA wants airframe manufacturers and the International Air Transport Association to be included in a new study, saying there remain "many serious technical and operational issues" to be resolved before it can support the advanced Enhanced Mode S.

Eurocontrol's Provisional Council has decided to use the system as a test case for its "Eurocontrol notice of proposed rulemaking" (ENPRM) system. The agency hopes using the ENPRM process will encourage Eurocontrol member states to go ahead with Mode S, although it admits it still faces an uphill task convincing airlines and some service providers of its benefits.

Germany is the only member to have committed to the 2003 in-service date for the initial Mode S system - Elementary Mode S.

Mode S is intended to complement conventional radars for surveillance. Elementary Mode S is due to enter service in 2003 and Enhanced Mode S in 2005.

The elementary system provides for aircraft identification parameters to be downlinked to ground stations, while the enhanced system produces more aircraft information, such as speed, heading and rate of descent. The AEA says by the time the enhanced version is available, systems such as automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast will render Mode S out of date.

Pascal Dias, Eurocontrol Mode S programme manager, insists, however, that "we need Mode S for high-density airspace. It has become a matter of urgency".

Source: Flight International