Tag: ICAO

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:

NTSB: Current NOTAM system is “just a bunch of garbage”

You were all very supportive when we wrote the initial article on the BS Notam problem last year, and have followed our journey in fixing the problem since then.

Big news!

The NTSB called the Notam System a bunch of garbage on Tuesday this week, and assigned probable cause of the AC759 incident in SFO to the Notams that were missed.

 

What this means to OpsGroup is massive fuel to our fire: we are working hard to fix this problem, and having a public facing government organisation like the NTSB come down like a ton of bricks on the Notam System drives us forward in leaps and bounds.

The group members have been decisive in helping us to identify the problem and taking action to fix this. So, we want to acknowledge all of you! Great work!

In solving two of the above five problems, we have been working with ICAO for several months now. You all got involved in Normand 17,000 Notams later, we happy to report that version 0.1 of Norm is now live on the ICAO website. Norm is a bot – an AI, that has learned what Notams look like, and thanks to OpsGroup rating these 17,000 Notams, is also learning which ones are critical and which ones are not.

He’s still young. He doesn’t get everything, but if you feed him a Notam you’ll see him assign it a criticality of 1-5.

This will in turn allow us to sort Notams, putting the most important stuff first.

 

The risks posed to civil aircraft by surface-to-air missiles

In Short: Worldwide the SAM threat is deemed to be “low” by ICAO with the caveat that this can change quickly when flying over or near conflict zones. The best risk mitigation is centred around which airspace you are operating over and what information you have access to. As we have explained before: There is no safe altitude from a large SAM.

What are surface-to-air missiles, and who has them?

Surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) are large, complex units, with the capability of reaching aircraft at cruising levels well above 25,000 ft, and they are designed to be operated by trained military personnel.

They are distinct from Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS), which are the smaller, shoulder-launched systems, the most dangerous of which being the FIM-92 Stinger which has an operational ceiling of 26,000 ft.

SAM systems vary but they are all designed to track and destroy military targets in flight. Due to the size and predictable flight paths, civil aircraft represent easy and highly vulnerable targets.

Many SAMs are mobile and can be moved quickly between locations. Many are located on warships. It is estimated that more than 70 States around the world have acquired SAMs as part of their military capability. A small number of non-State actors (i.e. militant groups) have also reportedly acquired SAMs, but as they require a radar system as part of the mechanism, they may not have the technical capability to use them. To date, SAMs have never been used by terrorists.

What has happened in the past?

There have been three documented occurrences where aircraft destruction has occurred due to SAM attacks.

The risk of intentional attack

To date, no documented case of intentional SAM attack on a civilian aircraft has been identified. In the case of MH17 and Iran Air, both occurred during periods of military conflict or high tension, whilst Siberia flight 1812 was shot down during a military training exercise.

ICAO say that “with regard to the States and non-State actors that currently do have access to SAMs, there is no reason to believe that the intent currently exists to target civil aviation deliberately.” And with regards to terrorist groups (as opposed to militarized forces), they say that “even where intent may exist there is currently no evidence of capability (in terms of hardware and trained personnel).”

Overall, the current risk to aviation from intentional SAM attack is therefore currently assessed to be low, the key caveat being to avoid overflying airspace over territory where terrorist groups tend to operate – normally areas of conflict where there is a breakdown of State control.

The risk of unintentional attack

Past events show us that the higher risk to civil aviation is from unintended and unintentional attacks when flying over or near conflict zones – missiles fired at military aircraft which miss their target, missiles fired at civil aircraft which have been misidentified as military aircraft, and missiles fired by State defence systems intended to shoot down other missiles.

Areas where there are armed conflicts going on clearly present an increased risk of an unintentional attack. But when assessing the risk of overflying a particular conflict zone, here are some more specific questions to consider:

Are there increased levels of military aircraft flying around in the region?

This could be anything from fighter jets being operated in a combat role, or for hostile reconnaissance; remotely piloted aircraft; or military aircraft used to transport troops or equipment. If military aircraft are one of the most likely targets for intentional attacks, then the chances of civil aircraft being mistakenly targeted increases in those areas where there are lots of military aircraft zipping around.

Are there likely to be a bunch of poorly trained or inexperienced personnel operating SAMs in the region?

This may be difficult to evaluate, but the risk is likely to be highest where SAMs may have been acquired by non-State actors. The risk is also likely to be higher in places where there is less of a robust command and control procedure for launching missiles, thus increasing the risk of misidentification of civil aircraft.

Is the territory below the airspace fully controlled by the State?

If not, and there are some areas controlled by militant or terrorist groups, the information on the presence and type of weaponry in such areas, as well as the information on who controls them, may not be readily available. In such regions, the information promulgated by the State about the risks to airspace safety may therefore not be 100% reliable.

Does the route pass over or near anywhere of particular importance in the context of the conflict?

These could be areas or locations that may be of strategic importance or sensitivity in the conflict, such as key infrastructure or military sites, which might be considered potential targets for air attack and would therefore be more likely to be guarded by SAMs.


Ultimately, risk mitigation is centred around which airspace you are operating over and what information you have access to. But as has been reported in the past, history has shown us that badly-written information published by the State often does little to highlight the real dangers posed by overflying conflict zones.

There is some evidence to suggest that more States are starting to provide better guidance and information to assist operators in making appropriate routing decisions, but we think this still has some way to go.

That is why we have been running our safe airspace map to provide guidance to assist operators in determining whether to avoid specific airspaces around the world.

 

Extra Reading:

New CPDLC procedure on the NAT

There’ll soon be a new CPDLC procedure on the NAT, designed to prevent pilots from acting on any old CPDLC messages that might have been delayed in the network.

ICAO have published a new Bulletin for all the NAT Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSP’s) to use as a basis for implementing this new procedure. They recommend that all aircraft should receive a message immediately after they enter each control area telling them to “SET MAX UPLINK DELAY VALUE” to a certain number of seconds. The idea is that this will prompt the pilot to enter the specified latency value into the aircraft avionics, so that it will ignore/reject any old CPDLC messages.

So far, only Iceland’s BIRD/Reykjavik FIR have implemented this procedure, effective May 24. All other sectors of NAT airspace (Gander, Shanwick, Bodo, Santa Maria, New York Oceanic) are busy writing their own AIC’s and will implement later in the year. 

So when entering the BIRD/Reykjavik FIR, expect to receive a CPDLC message from ATC instructing you to “SET MAX UPLINK DELAY VALUE TO 300 SECONDS”. A copy of their AIC with more guidance can be found here.

The latency monitor function varies from one aircraft type to another: some just automatically reject old CPDLC messages, some will display a warning to the pilot that the message has been delayed, some have deficient equipment, and some do not have the message latency monitor function implemented at all.

Because of this, ICAO note that “it is impossible for ATC to tailor the uplink of the message… to different aircraft types. It has therefore been decided among the NAT Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) to uplink this message to all CPDLC connected aircraft immediately after they enter each control area. An aircraft may therefore receive this message multiple times during a flight.”

So here’s the lowdown on what you need to do:

1. Work out in advance what kind of message latency monitor function your aircraft has, and what it is designed to do when it receives the CPDLC message “SET MAX UPLINK TIMER VALUE TO XXX SECONDS”.

2. When you receive this message, respond with the voice message “ACCEPT” or “ROGER”. If your aircraft has a functioning message latency monitor, punch in the specified number of seconds. If you don’t have functioning equipment, respond with the free text message “TIMER NOT AVAILABLE”.

3. If anything goes wrong, revert to voice comms.

Back in November 2017, 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.

Although the bans were dropped after Iridium fixed the problem at ground level (by ensuring the system no longer queued CPDLC uplinks for more than five minutes), this new CPDLC procedure on the NAT should ensure this kind of situation doesn’t happen again. It’s officially being brought in as one of the safety requirements for the roll-out of reduced lateral and longitudinal separation minima across the NAT, which is predicated on Performance Based Communication and Surveillance (PBCS) specifications – that means having CPDLC capable of RCP240 (4 minute comms loop), and ADS-C capable of RSP180 (3 minute position reporting).

Further reading:
ICAO NAT Bulletin 2018_002: CPDLC Uplink Message Latency Monitor
Iceland’s AIC on the new CPDLC procedure for the BIRD/Reykjavik FIR
– The latest PBCS rumours and facts
The latest NAT changes, including EGGX/Shanwick, CZQX/Gander, BIRD/Iceland, ENOB/Bodo, LPPO/Santa Maria, and KZWY/New York Oceanic East.
IRIDIUM satcom fault fixed

ICAO Raises Weight Threshold for Hardened Cockpit Door Requirement

In Short: Following a three-year effort from industry groups and aircraft manufacturers, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will raise the weight threshold for requiring hardened cockpit doors for aircraft with 19 or fewer passenger seats from 45.5 metric tons (100,310 pounds) maximum certificated takeoff weight to 54.5 metric tons (120,152 pounds).

This decision will enable the full type certification and worldwide use of current and future extended-range business aircraft such as the Bombardier Global 7000 and Gulfstream G650ER.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has changed its weight rules regarding strengthened cockpit doors on business jets. Toughened doors are required for aircraft operating charter flights.

Previous rules stated that hardened doors were needed for business jets with 19 seats or fewer, with a maximum take-off weight of 100,310lbs (45.5T). The new rules increase the maximum take-off weight to 120,152lbs (54.5T).

“This change maintains the security level intended by the original hardened cockpit door requirement, but recognizes the important distinction between airline service and business aircraft operations,” said Sarah Wolf, CAM, NBAA senior manager of security and facilitation.

The International Business Aviation Council (IBAC), in concert with the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations and aircraft manufacturers, proposed the changes to Annex 6 Part 1 – International Commercial Air Transport.

“The effort took much planning and working through the full standard-making process at ICAO and shows ICAO recognition of greater operational capabilities and industry evolution,” said IBAC Director General Kurt Edwards.

The new standard will become effective Jul 16, 2018, and applicable to member states in Nov 2018.

World Airports Database

We needed a reliable, comprehensive Airport database for International Flight Ops. There wasn’t one out there.

That was six years ago. All of the databases that we found online – both paid for and free – had flaws that made them unusable in the daily Flight Operation. Too short, too long, not enough data, wrong codes, badly formatted … We realised that we had to built a new one from scratch.

So we did. In the interim, we’ve added all kinds of useful data to it, updated it, and made it into what we think is the best database for Ops Controllers, Pilots, Airlines, Software developers, and service providers.

Take a look at the database – you can see a sample 100 records, but the full version is a paid product.

Download the sample

static1.squarespace

 

New ICAO SID/STAR Phraseologies from 10 November 2016 (or not?)

This is not going to be a short story.

But here’s the summary. In June 2016, ICAO updated Doc 4444 (the Air Traffic Control bible) with Amendment 7.

One of the main things this new bit does, is to change what the controller will say to the pilot, on a Standard Instrument Departure (SID), and on a Standard Instrument Arrival (STAR).

The new phraseology headline is “CLIMB VIA” and “DESCEND VIA”, but there are many more new parts to it.

So, here’s the problem. Doc 4444 is the master document, but each country has to implement the changes. And many are not – because they haven’t had time to train the controllers, or because they haven’t done a safety case (ie. figured out if anything in the new phraseologies might be dangerous), or … other reasons.

Some states have even published AIC’s to say that they won’t be implementing the changes (Australia, Switzerland). Others have already published the changes (Iceland, for example).

Confusing? You bet. For now, do two things:

  1. Read the new rules, because you’ll hear them from November 10th, but we’re not exactly sure where yet.
  2. Comment below and tell us any additional info you have.

The new rules are here:

  1. ICAO State Letter (the official version, with the verbatim changes to Doc 4444)
  2. A summary leaflet from ICAO – the highlights.
  3. SID/STAR Scenarios and Example Phraseologies from ICAO (a longer document).

We’ll keep this page updated as we hear more …

Will be implementing the change
Iceland
Latvia
Sweden (if we read AIP Supp 89 correctly)

Won’t be implementing the change – yet

Finland
Singapore
Australia
Switzerland
United Kingdom (not until late 2017, earliest)

Midweek Briefing: Australia Airport Workers Strike, ICAO Toughens Aircraft Tracking

Australia Airport Workers Strike 09MAR The Community and Public Sector Union (CSPU) announced the possibility of a strike during the week of 21 March, as well as three weeks of rolling airport strikes by Border Force and Immigration Department staff at international airports across the country. Airport staff members are expected to begin a work stoppage on 24 March, to coincide with the Easter holiday weekend, and will walk off the job at airports, freight terminals and other related sites. The work stoppages will be held to protest wage freezes and work conditions. Further details are likely to emerge closer to the strike.

ICAO Toughens Aircraft Tracking while in distress 02MAR The ICAO has announced new requirements for the real-time tracking of civilian aircraft in distress, following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 two years ago. The ICAO’s governing council approved proposals for planes to carry tracking devices that can transmit their location at least once a minute in cases of distress. Aircraft operators will have to ensure their flight recorder data is recoverable, while the duration of cockpit voice recordings is being extended to 25 hours, ICAO said in a news release. These changes will take effect between now and 2021.


 

United States Visa Waiver Program Passport Requirements Take Effect April 1. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers must present an e-Passport containing a biometric chip in order to enter the United States visa-free after March 31, 2016.  VWP travelers who do not hold an e-Passport should apply for a new passport as soon as possible to ensure that they can continue to use the program without interruption. The e-Passport requirement applies only to VWP travelers; it does not affect holders of U.S. visas.

Canada Electronic Travel Authorization Deadline Relaxed It has been announced that visa-exempt nationals who plan to enter or exit and re-enter Canada by air will be able to board their flight without an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) from March 15, 2016 until fall 2016.

India has extended its e-Tourist Visa program to applicants from 37 additional countries. Also, the visa-on-arrival program for certain Japanese nationals who are unable to apply for a regular or electronic visa has been relaxed to allow multiple visits per calendar year. Lastly, the deadline for Person of Indian Origin card holders to apply for the Overseas Citizen of India card in lieu of Person of Indian Origin card has been extended until June 30, 2016.

Ecuador The Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute reported that the Tungurahua volcano has experienced a series of eruptions. Pyroclastic flows and fallen ash have collected near the crater. During past eruptions, the volcano’s clouds of ash have disrupted flights to major airports in the region.

KZWY/New York Oceanic has issued NOTAM A0105/16 advising restrictions to routings in the WATRS PLUS area due to the (QVR) Oceana Radar being U/S on March 9th and March 10th between the hours of 14-22Z. The restrictions are issued as follows:

Northbound: L453 will be closed.

Southbound: M201 will be clsd btn int atugi and hanri.

Only aircraft equipped with operational ADS-260B out may use the following routes:

Southbound: L453 between LEXAD and ONGOT

North-eastbound: M201 between HANRI and ATUGI

All ADS-260B out aircraft must file an icao flight plan.

UIBB/Bratsk issued a NOTAM restricting the arrivals to only scheduled services due a fuel shortage until March 31st.

PKMJ/Majuro (Marshall Islands) Monthly tanker replenishment is planned for Mar 21-25. During this time, fuel will not be available.

VTSP/Phuket,Thailand has issued a NOTAM advising that the parking of private aircraft is prohibited overnight until April 25th.

Nigeria has experienced a country wide fuel shortage. Please check with your handler ahead of time to ensure fuel is available. Tankering is highly recommended until further notice.

LCCC FIR/Nicosia FIR Late notification of a military exercise in LCCC ACC starting on 09/03/2016 0300 UTC until 11/03/2016 1000 UTC. Exercise areas and route closures announced by following NOTAMs:

A0191/16 through A0196/16, A0208/16 and A0209/16 for area specifications. A0215/16 through A0220/16 for the route closures.

Please see the following graphic outlining the area:

Military Exercise Cyprus

View the full International Bulletin 09MAR2016

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