Airspace Q1 2018: Taking centre stage

22 February 2018

Teri Bristol, CANSO Chair and Chief Operating Officer of the FAA's ATO, says CANSO's ability to influence the future direction of ATM has never been greater

What do you hope to achieve during your time as CANSO Chair?

My main aim is to build on the hard work and progress of my predecessors. We need to find new and creative ways to add further value to CANSO Members. There have already been developments in this area. CANSO has been able to tap into service niches with projects such as the CANSO ATFM Data Exchange Network for the Americas (CADENA) and the Standard of Excellence in Air Navigation Service - Safety (SEANS-Safety). The value these projects represent is clear and that is something to which CANSO Members can contribute as well as gaining the benefits.

My goal is to help CANSO capitalise on the good work it is doing.

How can CANSO best maintain its relevance to Members and continue to deliver benefits?

CANSO's greatest strength is its ability to adapt to the changes in the industry. That is how it maintains its relevance and ensures Members see the advantages in the organisation.

There is great clarity in the work CANSO is doing and the guidance material it is producing. There are roadmaps that provide paths to success that all ANSPs can navigate, no matter how big or small.

CANSO needs to ensure that open dialogues continue. It is important for Members to communicate with CANSO, so we can understand what they are thinking and the ways in which we can further support them. A lot is happening in this regard and on 5 March there will be a CANSO CEO Strategy Summit that will look specifically at ensuring Members continue to derive value from CANSO.

Are Associate Members important to the future of CANSO and what role would you like to see them playing?

From 2017, the representation of Associate Members, the companies that provide products, services and solutions to the ATM industry, increased from one to two on the CANSO Executive Committee (ExCom). That shows how important they are to CANSO. And that importance is only going to grow.

Associate Members have added tremendous value to internal discussions on the ExCom and have driven renewed interaction with all Associate Members. They also bring a wealth of experience that traditional ANSPs simply do not have. It adds a different dynamic to CANSO and I am sure we will see more companies joining as Associate Members in the future and even greater representation on ExCom.

How is CANSO keeping up with the fast-changing developments in the industry – new entrants, increasing competition, new technology, and changing business models?

CANSO's focus is always on safe and efficient airspace for all users. That will not change. But clearly, new entrants, such as drones, bring new models of air navigation service delivery and new technologies.

Currently, the operating parameters of commercial airspace users are well understood, as is the regulatory framework. New entrants are challenging that paradigm. The vehicles they use are often unique in their operating dynamics, especially compared with conventional aircraft. That means we need to look at a number of regulatory areas, such as access prioritisation, communication and navigational standards; all the while ensuring safety is never compromised.

The key is to work incrementally, as is being done in automation, for example. There has to be proper conversations on what needs to be done to achieve the desired outcomes.

As for ANSP business models, CANSO has no preference and will work with them all. We know that some ANSPs will corporatise and some never will. But CANSO's structure allows us to deliver value no matter what the governance of its Members.

As the global voice of air traffic management, how does CANSO influence the development of policy, regulations and best practice?

CANSO is the focal point and voice of all in ATM. As such, it has the ability to keep all the key players at the table engaged, including airports, airlines, governments, and such industry bodies as Airports Council International, International Air Transport Association and ICAO. The aim is to bring together their capabilities and goals so that the industry achieves some degree of harmonisation.

CANSO is able to spotlight where the industry is now and where it needs to go. Through the relationships it has, it is ideally placed to influence the development of the industry on a global basis.

What do you see as being the major challenges for ATM right now?

Integrating new entrants and new technologies into existing airspace is an ongoing challenge. Everybody involved in ATM wants to build on the industry's exemplary safety record. But new entrants and new technologies are moving faster than regulation. To ensure we maintain that safety record, we must be even more nimble.

The industry has to be proactive and look at how implementation strategies can be harmonised and brought into the regulatory framework. If we want to maintain leadership of the industry, everybody has to move faster and be more agile. The fact is new entrants have huge resources and they are not going to accept the status quo.

In the US, for example, local governments are very actively dealing with all aspects of drone activity. The Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) meets three times a year and the idea of drone management being done at a local or state level is front and centre. No path forward has yet been clearly defined by the 35-strong DAC, which includes airlines, airports, government and third parties as well as the Federal Aviation Administration. It is possible, however, that the solution to integrating drones into the airspace will have local involvement and we are wrestling with what that will look like.

Upper airspace, above 60,000 feet, is an emerging focus too. There is going to be a lot of activity in this segment with the rise of commercial space transport. As with low level airspace, the traditional airspace ownership and management structure will not necessarily hold true.

The sheer volume of traffic is another challenge. That alone also means that business as usual will no longer be acceptable.

Do you see technologies from outside the industry as an opportunity or a threat?

You have to see them as an opportunity. As one of my colleagues is fond of saying, "nothing worth doing is ever easy". But this goes back to why CANSO is so important. Its long-standing collaboration with a number of partners means that most technologies that will have an impact on the industry – such as artificial intelligence or augmented reality – are on its radar. That will help promote global interoperability.

Of course, different parts of the world will need different solutions, but partnership is a way forward for modernisation in general.

What progress do you see towards seamless airspace globally?

A global seamless sky is the goal we all want to achieve. But airspace is very complex with a number of factors involved, political as well as technical. You cannot just flip a switch.

CANSO needs to be prepared with strategies to address the differences in each region which are driven by socio-economic issues, differences in aviation growth, and key differences in ATM needs.

In time though, all things are possible. And the best progress will come through CANSO taking centre stage, promoting safety and efficiency.

Has the structural change in the US airline market – consolidation – affected ATM strategy or timelines?

We are certainly not seeing any of the timelines involved in NextGen implementation lengthen as a result of airline consolidation. If anything, the timelines are shortening. There are obviously fewer divergent views. Agreement and implementation is easier to achieve.

The overall strategy has not changed either even though we are seeing some differences in traffic flow. Traffic in the Midwest is down but in California and across the south it has increased. Generally, traffic – in terms of aircraft movements – is down and this has made it easier to get on with the work of implementing NextGen.

Again, though, it is all about partnerships. We talk with the relevant stakeholders regularly, even hourly when the need warrants it. It is about having the right conversations at the right time.

How challenging has it been to align NextGen with European initiatives, such as SESAR Joint Undertaking?

There is a strong relationship with SESAR JU. A State of Harmonization report is publicly available, and we will be publishing an update in advance of the ICAO Air Navigation Conference in October 2018. Information management, trajectory management, datacomms and surveillance are all areas where we have worked together. There are regular meetings on both sides of the Atlantic and these continue to explore the initiatives planned and how we can contribute to each other's success.


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