Tag: ATC (page 1 of 2)

PBCS – What, Where and How

In Short: The performance-based communication and surveillance (PBCS) framework allows for higher safety standards and more efficient airspace use. If your aircraft already has the equipment and you cross the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans often, it’s worth looking into getting your regulatory approval.

PB… what? It’s a good question. We have so many acronyms in aviation, it’s easy to forget what this one stands for and what it really means. So, let’s try and get to the bottom of it.

What is PBCS?

Official answer:

The ICAO performance-based communication and surveillance (PBCS) framework ensures that emerging technologies for communication and surveillance fully support ATM operations and are implemented and operated safely.

In plain speak:

With the technology already available on many aircraft and in the Air Traffic Control facility, aircraft can now fly closer than ever before, especially over non-radar oceanic airspace.

There are two key buzz words, so let’s define them. They are interlinked with RNP – Required Navigation Performance.

  • RSP – Required Surveillance Officially known as “surveillance data delivery”, often stipulated in the Airplane Flight Manual. Basically, how often does the aircraft send its position to ATC/ground station. There are two specifications, RSP180 and RSP400. The numbers indicate the maximum number of seconds (180 or 400) for the transaction to occur.
  • RCP – Required Communication ICAO has two specifications, RCP240 and RCP400. Again, the numbers indicate the maximum number of seconds (240 or 400), or “transaction time” taken for the controller to issue an instruction to the crew and for them to receive a response. This could be via CPDLC, HFDL, VDL or SATCOM.

So, we have a loop here, C-N-S. Communication, Navigation and Surveillance. An aircraft sends surveillance information to ATC about where it is; the aircraft stays within confines of RNP navigation requirements and ATC communicates with the aircraft within the required transaction times.  Pretty easy!

But why do we need PBCS?

The take away? If all given aircraft in a certain airspace have a lower RSP value and a lower RCP value, we can start putting these aircraft closer together.

Essentially – performance-based separation minima. This allows aircraft to be separated safely according to technological capability rather than “one-size-fits-all” prescriptive distances.

What are the differences from PBN?

They are similar but there are notable differences. In a simple sense, the PBN (RNP/RNAV) only requires that the operator obtains approval because it focuses on how the equipment works. PBCS (RSP/RCP) however requires the involvement and approval of the air traffic service provider because it’s a two-way communication and surveillance effort. There are dependencies and complexity with the equipment standards on both ends.

In this graphic you can see a high-level summary of who is responsible for what:

Where is it in place?

Currently PBCS is in effect in one form or another in the following FIR’s

  • NZZC/Auckland Oceanic
  • NFFF/Nadi
  • KZAK/Oakland Oceanic
  • PAZN/Anchorage Oceanic
  • WSJC/Singapore
  • VCCF/Sri Lanka
  • NTTT/Tahiti
  • RJJJ/ Fukuoka
  • KZNY/New York Oceanic
  • CZQX/Gander
  • EGGX/Shanwick
  • BIRD/ Reykjavik
  • LPPO/Santa Maria Oceanic

The Air Traffic Service providers of China, Brazil and Indonesia have also shown interest to introduce PBCS in the future.

Specifically, PBCS is being used between FL350 and 390 on certain “half” NAT tracks as we have written about before.

What do I need to do?

Requirements vary from state-to-state on the exact procedure for obtaining approval. It’s important to note that not all aircraft are automatically PBCS ready (refer to your aircraft manufacturer and your airplane flight manual).

The FAA has outlined its approval process here and has a handy powerpoint document here.

An important element is to prove that you have signed the “PBCS Global Charter” which can be found at the FANS Central Reporting Agency (CRA) website.

When a PBCS authorization is obtained an operator is required to file both P2 (indicating RCP240) in item 10 and SUR/RSP180 in item 18 of the flight plan, in addition to the J codes for CPDLC and D1 or G1 for ADS-C in item 10.

The correct filing of these two codes will indicate to any ATM ground systems applying performance-based separation minima that the aircraft is eligible for these minima and that the crew have received the relevant training in order to safely operate using the reduced separations.

Will you notice that PBCS standards are being applied to your flight?

Ok this is the funny part of this story. The short answer, probably not.

While it may be easier for RCP240/RSP180 approved aircraft to obtain optimal flight profiles, especially during high traffic periods, and particularly for NAT flights using the OTS, the application of these standards is generally tactical in nature for ATC. An aircraft may not have performance-based separation applied at all on an individual flight, or possibly may never have had it applied to any of its flights. Even if a you have RCP240/RSP180 approvals, if the aircraft nearby does not also have the approvals, the separation standards cannot be applied!

What if I don’t have RCP240 and RSP180 approval?

If you do not have RCP240/RSP180 approvals you will always have the larger separations, e.g. 10-min, applied, and not be eligible for the lower standards in cases where it may be beneficial.

The only airspace that has implemented tracks that will require PBCS to file is in the NAT OTS. There are still non-PBCS tracks in the OTS for which PBCS approvals are not required.

All other airspace in which performance-based separation minima are currently applied will allow aircraft with and without RCP240 and RSP180 approvals to enter and use the airspace in a mixed-mode operation.

Will I be penalized if I don’t have it?

Probably not in the short term. In the future as more and more airspace corridors become PBCS only, then it is possible you may be subject to reroutes, delays or the requirement to fly outside of certain flight levels.

So, our conclusion?

PBCS is a great step forward in maximizing efficiency in a busier airspace environment thanks to the advent of better technology. If you fly the NATs often and have an aircraft capable of PBCS certification standards, then yes – do it! The approval process is not overly burdensome, and many modern transatlantic jets already meet most of the technical requirements.

Ultimately, reduced separation standards mean more great air-to-air views. So, pack your camera!

You were in a 4G inverted dive with a Mig 28? -Yes, ma’am. -At what range? -Um, about two meters. -Eh, lieutenant, what were you doing there? -Communicating. Keeping up foreign relations.

Did we miss something, or does something need more explaining? Let us know!

Extra Reading:

ATC Strike over, but nine Ethiopian Air Traffic Controllers remain in jail

5th September, update:

As of this morning, most controllers have returned to work. Some concessions made by ECAA. Addis ACC and TWR are again staffed with qualified controllers, so the safety situation, for now, is restored. However, 9 remain in jail. Returning controllers were forced to sign an ‘admission’ of illegal strike action in return for amnesty. IATA In Flight Broadcast Procedure requirement for Addis FIR remains in place, meaning you must broadcast on 126.9 as in other areas of concern in Africa. Further as we get it.

 

4th September:

Last week we were one of the first to expose the attempted ATC Strike cover up by the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority.

As a reminder, untrained and uncertified foreign controllers, retired and local non-operational ATC personnel are being used to control air traffic over Ethiopia. 

It is a catastrophic misjudgement, creating a safety risk in the Addis FIR and at Ethiopian Airports for pilots and passengers alike.

Here are some more updates since our last article:

  • On August 29, The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Association (IFATCA) penned a letter to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. You can read it here.
  • The neighbouring controllers in Kenya warned that flights in and out of Addis Ababa are not safe. You can view their letter here – specifically they warned that the ‘possibility of air misses’ is real.
  • The ECAA over the weekend rejected concerns regarding the safety of Ethiopian airspace, specifically calling the claims from Kenya as “outright lies.”  The ECAA has said that ATC are operating “in accordance with ICAO Annex 1 provisions.” They did not deny however that foreign and retired ATC are being used.
  • The ECAA also outlined that the national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, has “awarded” veteran Air Traffic Controllers,  who are performing their national obligation.
  • However on Monday, the local state affiliated broadcaster, Fana BC, reported that the Federal Police Commission had detained nine individuals on suspicion of attempting to disrupt international flights and coordinating a strike that began last week. This has been quickly condemned on social media, as many locals called on the government to resolve the issues raised by the ATCs rather than resorting to intimidation.

The ECAA claims that “some” of the striking controllers have returned to work.

Major airlines and uninformed passengers continue to fly into and over Ethiopia and this continues to be a major safety risk.

Do you have more to add this story?  Please, let us know!

Unsafe aircraft not welcome in Europe

Eurocontrol and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have brought live an automated system which alerts air traffic controllers when unsafe aircraft enter European airspace.

How does it work?

Network Management Director at Eurocontrol Joe Sultana, explained that “We have added another parameter to our system, and this is now checking if an aircraft coming from outside of Europe is coming from a state where the regulatory environment is accepted by the European Aviation Safety Agency”.

So in short: The system will now take an automatic look at the Third Country Operator Authorisation and alert ATC if there is a flight being operated from a aircraft on the banned list.

The regulation that a plane coming from a non EU country must have a Third Country Operator Authorisation has been in place since 2014, but controllers have had no way to implement it across the 30,000 flights it receives into Europe each day, until this new component was entered into their systems.

As a reminder, Eurocontrol receives the flight plans of all aircraft entering into European air space, while the EASA holds the Third Country Operator Authorisations information which confirms that planes are from countries with recognised safe regulatory practices.

Why are you still getting the Ruudy6 wrong? Stop at 1500!

If you’re departing Teterboro any time soon, make sure you stop at 1500 feet – and have a good look at the rest of the RUUDY 6 departure. That’s the message from NY ATC, and the Teterboro Users Group.

The FAA has reported over 112 pilot deviations on the KTEB/Teterboro RUUDY 6  SID.

The Teterboro Users Group has asked us to remind all pilots that strict compliance is required, especially vertically.

“The most common error being a climb straight to 2000’ without honouring the requirement to cross WENTZ at 1500” – Capt. David Belastock, President, TUG

This week the FAA issued the following notice which explain the issue and the serious consequences of non-compliance, namely the reduced vertical separation with KEWR/Newark arrivals:

Teterboro Airport SID Deviations

Notice Number: NOTC7799

The Ruudy Six departure continues to incur both lateral, but in particular, vertical pilot deviations. Due to the proximity of Newark and other area airports it is imperative to follow the RNAV(RNP1) departure procedure to Performance Based Navigation (PBN) standards. Do not drift left off course to avoid noise monitors. Do not climb above 1500 until passing Wentz intersection. There is only 1000 feet of separation with overhead traffic at Wentz. When issued the clearance to “climb via the SID” all altitude restrictions must be complied with as depicted on the chart.

Attached are excerpts from the Aeronautical Information Manual and the Controllers handbook explaining the Climb Via procedure. An expanded explanation is in chapter 4 and 5 of the AIM.

Further information can be found on the Teterboro Users Group website http://teterborousersgroup.org and in KTEB Notice to Airmen (Letters to Airmen section)

There has been an extensive education campaign underway for a long period including guidance material, pilot meetings, educational podcasts and even a FlightSafety International eLearning course. Despite these efforts, pilot deviations continue to occur.

A great guide has been created by Captain Belastock and its very useful for any crews operating out of KTEB.

Know of any other procedures with unusually high non-compliance?

Let us know!

Don’t forget to file MACH number in NY Oceanic Airspace

KZWY/New York Oceanic FIR last month published a NOTAM requiring Flight Plans to be submitted with MACH crusing number, rather than TAS in Field 15A for the flight plan. So far, most operators are not doing this. But you should!

This includes flight departing TXKF/Bermuda.

A0178/18 – ALL ACFT ENTERING THE NEW YORK OCEANIC FIR (KZWY), INCLUDING THOSE DEPARTING BERMUDA (TXKF) , MUST FILE A MACH NUMBER INSTEAD OF A SPEED OF KNOTS IN THE EXPECTED CRUISE SPEED FIELD (FIELD 15A) OF THEIR FPL. 03 MAY 17:08 2018 UNTIL 31 MAR 23:59 2019. CREATED: 03 MAY 17:09 2018

Reports are that compliance so far has been low.

So why do it?

NY ARTCC tell us:

This minor adjustment enables the ATC computer system to effectively probe flight plans and proactively offer more favorable routes and/or reroutes.

Help ATC out! Thank you.

 

Last minute ATC grab in Congress

On Friday Apr 27, the US House of Representatives approved a long-delayed bill to authorize funding for the FAA, after GA advocates had mobilized earlier in the week to fight-off a last-minute attempt to privatize US ATC.

Late on Tuesday Apr 24, Republican Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced a “managers amendment” to the proposed five-year FAA funding bill.

His amendment called for two things:
1. Remove the US ATC system from the FAA and instead make it part of the Transportation Department.
2. Allow it to be run by a 13-member advisory board made up mainly by airlines.

“Both of these provisions were drafted in the dark of night, without any opportunity for public debate,” said NBAA.

After last minute lobbying by GA advocates, the two contentious items in the bill were removed.

While Shuster agreed to remove the measures, he reiterated that he “strongly believe[s] Congress must pass real air traffic control reform” and that he sees that happening “somewhere down the line.”

“We are pleased to see this legislation pass the House,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “While the bill is not perfect, a long-term reauthorization is critical to advancing our shared priorities. Equally important, this bipartisan bill will modernize, not privatize air traffic control. We are grateful that members of Congress heard their constituents’ concerns about ATC privatization, and reflected those concerns in bringing this legislation to final passage.”

Here’s what happens when Europe’s slot system crashes

On 3rd April 2018, a failure with the central European slot computer plunged the entire ATC system into crisis mode, with multiple knock on effects. Here’s what happened:

1. The system that allocates ATC slots to flights, and therefore manages the flow of traffic across Europe, failed at 1026 UTC. It’s called the ETFMS (Enhanced Tactical Flow Management System), but aka “The Slot Computer”

2. There is a Contingency Plan for this situation. Airports are supposed to use this, which gives a quick table of departure intervals allowed according to the destination. You can view the plan here and see what it looks like for all the main airports: http://www.eurocontrol.int/publications/network-manager-atfcm-procedural-contingency-plan

3. Some airlines reported that Istanbul, amongst others, were initially holding all departures, as local authorities were not well versed in the Contingency Plan and were unclear as to how to handle the situation. Eurocontrol then started calling round the 70 main airports to make sure they knew what they were supposed to do!

4. All flight plans filed before 1026Z were lost. Operators were instructed to re-file all their FPL’s, as well as those for the rest of the day, as Eurocontrol said they would only switch back on the slot computer once they reached a critical mass of filed flight plans in the system.

5. With the Contingency Plan in place, there was around a 10% total capacity reduction across the whole of Europe. Actual delay numbers – usually available on the NOP – were impossible to verify, because of all the missing FPL’s in the system.

6. Normally, Eurocontrol will re-address your FPL to ATC Centres outside the IFPZ. During the slot computer outage, operators had to do this manually, ie. find the FIR’s they would cross, get their AFTN addresses (like HECCZQZX), and send them their FPL.

7. The actual system failure was fixed at around 1400Z, but only went back online at around 1800Z, after it had been thoroughly tested and Eurocontrol were happy there were enough FPL’s back in the system.

In over 20 years of operation, Eurocontrol said “the ETFMS has only had one other outage which occurred in 2001. The system currently manages up to 36,000 flights a day.”

More NAT half-tracks are coming

Update Jan 23: The current phase of the trial for RLatSM Tracks will come to an end on March 29, when PBCS standards will be introduced for the NAT tracks. More info on that here.

Since Dec 2015, there have been three daily NAT tracks spaced by one-half degree between FL350-390. These are officially called ‘RLatSM Tracks’ (Reduced lateral separation minima), but we all just prefer to call them ‘Half-Tracks’.

Separating flights by one-half degree of latitude rather than the standard one degree means that aircraft can be separated laterally by 25nm, which helps improve the efficiency of North Atlantic operations.

In Jan 2018 the Half-Tracks will be expanded from the three that now run each day, first by one additional track and then (maybe) to all NAT Tracks between FL350-390 inclusive. Jan 4 is the earliest day that this might happen, but because they will be decided tactically, it will most likely be the first busy day after Jan 4.

If you want to operate on the RLatSM tracks, you’re going to need CPDLC, ADS-C, and RNP4; along with the other standard pre-requisites for operating in the NAT HLA between FL350-390: an HLA approval, TCAS 7.1, RVSM approval, two LRNS, and a working HF radio. To figure out where you are welcome on the NAT, depending on what equipment and training you have, check out our quick and dirty guide here.

One thing to be cautious of when using the half-degree tracks – most aircraft FMC’s truncate lat/long waypoints to a maximum of 7 characters, so it will often show up as the same waypoint whether you’re operating along whole or half degree waypoints. So when operating on the half-tracks, just remember to double-check the full 13-character representations of the lat/long waypoints when you enter them into the FMC.

For more details about the new RLatSM procedures, have a read of the UK AIC 087/2017 here.


					
		

Iridium Fault Fixed

Last week we reported on an equipment issue with Iridium satcom that prompted a ban by a number of Oceanic ATC agencies. Some aircraft were receiving massively delayed clearances sent by ATC via CPDLC – and one took the instruction and climbed 1000 feet, even though the message was meant for the flight the aircraft operated previously.

Here were the areas which had previously published Notams restricting the use of Iridium: Brazil Atlantico (SBAO), Auckland (NZZO), Chile (SCIZ), Japan (RJJJ), Anchorage (PAZA), Oakland (KZAK), New York (KZNY and KZWY).

However, all FIR’s have now removed their notams which banned the use of Iridium for CPDLC and ADS-C. This has happened after tests were performed last week using Iridium SATCOM which confirmed that Iridium no longer queues CPDLC uplinks for more than five minutes.

CPDLC Departure Clearance for US Airspace – 22Oct

Earlier this month we reported about the transition of the United States ATC system to a National Single Data Authority (NSDA). https://ops.group/blog/cpdlc-for-us-airspace-the-implementation-process/

The initial phase of this process is scheduled to start this weekend on 22Oct at 0330Z with a single CPDLC logon ID for domestic US airspace (KUSA) and ATC issuing departure clearances using CPDLC.

You can read more details about Controller-Pilot Data Link Communication–Departure Clearance (CPDLC-DCL), general procedures for logging on/notifying, loading the flight plan, receiving the CPDLC-DCL, responding to the CPDLC-DCL message, and disconnecting/logging off  here:

NAS Data Communications Guide

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