Experts Discuss Network Enabled Operations at ATCA/JPDO Symposium
On September 9, 2004, the Joint Planning and Development Office and the Air Traffic Control
co-sponsored a symposium in Washington, DC on Network Enabled Operations (NEO) for
Aviation. Attended by more than a hundred representatives from the private and public sector, it
featured a diverse group of speakers who delved into how NEO relates to the Next Generation Air
Transportation System, its potential benefits, and the changes and barriers that must be overcome if
transformation is to be achieved. The following is a synopsis of the symposium's sessions.
Session 1: Why Transform?
In this first session, the four speakers addressed potential mechanisms to
provide for increased capacity while ensuring that air defense and security needs are met. Dave
Bushy, Vice President of Flight Operations for JetBlue Airways was first up and offered some
examples of how "best to operate in the current system," such as by placing "more real estate in the
cockpit" and through the greater use of Required Navigation Performance(RNP) and "electronic flight
bags." He also suggested a redefinition of airspace where "we avoid separating airplane from
airspace in lieu of airplane from airplane." In response to the question, "Why transform?" Mr.
Bushy concluded, "Because we must transform to succeed."
Doug Davis, representing FAA Air Certification opened his remarks by noting that the events of
September 11th underscored the critical need for access to real time data and therefore, a
neo-centric operation. "We don't need new stovepipe systems," he said. Mr. Davis also reported that
some progress has been achieved in making inroads into the Transportation Safety Administration - an
important JPDO stakeholder. He concluded that "it is imperative that we act as government" and
create a system where "we can knock on a gatekeeper's door" for access to critical safety and
James Williams, FAA's Acting Director for Technical Operations ATC Communications Service said that
the FAA's new Air Traffic Organization (ATO) is all about transformation. Mr. Williams laid out four
key strategies to help achieve it: (1) achieve operational excellence; (2) enhance financial
discipline; (3) increase capacity; and (4) ensure a viable future. "We have no choice but to
transform," he concluded.
Filling out the panel was Darryl Jenkins, Visiting Professor at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
who gave a provocative presentation entitled, "Innovate, Consolidate or Liquidate: The Pain is Just
Beginning" on what is occurring today in the U.S. commercial aviation industry. Professor Jenkins
said that it is easy to innovate "if you are starting from scratch," but it is much more difficult
for the legacy airlines.
Session 2: Transforming Air Transportation Through Network Enabled Operations
The second session
focused on actually transforming air transportation through Network Enabled Operations. Tim Wallace,
ISAC Team Lead and Director of Transformation Assurance for the JPDO said, "Ready or not, we're
going to be networked." He noted that NEO is not a program in the classic sense, but rather a
systems engineering approach in which "we share information in a way that's advantageous." While
underscoring that NEO can convey "new benefits that we can't conceive," Mr. Wallace also pointed to
a number of challenges including, security of sensitive information, pushing out NEO to the broader
industry community, the present reliance on geographically-based air traffic control operations and
assorted policy issues.
John Loynes, FAA's Product Team Lead for Data and Communications discussed how the System Wide
Information Management (SWIM) vision is very similar to NEO - providing the "right information at
the right time to the right place." He said that at the present time there is no ability to share
all air traffic information, and that the collaborative decision making process provided through
SWIM/NEO is very different from what currently exists. Mr. Loynes concluded that the biggest
challenge to SWIM is the "ability to work with people to provide assurances that the information is
timely and accurate."
Randy Kenagy, Director of Advanced Technology for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association brought
a general aviation perspective to the discussion. He noted that in spite of the restrictions
following 9/11, general aviation is alive and well and enjoying record sales. Moreover, general
aviation is in the process of being transformed though new technology, according to Mr. Kenagy.
Satellite navigation is being used for some or all parts of the flight and it is "already NEO to
some degree at non-towered" facilities. Number one on his "top five" list was that air traffic
control remain a government-provided, no-fee service.
Neil Planzer, Boeing's Vice President, Strategy, Advanced ATM Systems, looked at the "hidden
challenges and obstructions" to transformation. He said that the root problem is that there is "no
political imperative today for us to change." Moreover, he contended that previous technological
failures and budget constraints could further contribute to hindering transformation. Mr. Planzer
also argued that the hub and spoke system "embeds in the [ATC] system a capacity problem." He
concluded that if transformation is to succeed, a strong argument has to be made as to its security
value to the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Homeland Security (DHS).
Session 3: Technology is Not the Barrier
In this session, the speakers described how a lack of
technology is not a barrier to using NEO. Anthony Simon from Networks and Information Integration in
the Office of the Secretary of Defense said that under the NEO vision, data would be visible,
searchable and accessible and this vision is directly tied to get getting required funding. He saw
three challenges: (1) people don't want to share their information; (2) there is a very strong
need-to-know security policy; and (3) transitioning programs from the current legacy systems.
Derek Smith, Information Technology Program Manager for the Transportation Security Administration
in DHS saw five issues influencing the transformation towards NEO: (1) socio-political, such as the
inability to motivate the workforce to change from the legacy systems to NEO; (2) missions may not
be able to accommodate future needs and process controls; (3) full start-up funding; (4) security
needs and; (5) the socialization of each issue.
Marc Viggiano, President of Air Traffic Systems for Sensis Corporation said that technology is not
the issue and that there are no insurmountable barriers to NEO. He argued that it could provide
better, faster, more reliable, affordable and cost-efficient operations and decisions. However, he
said that the biggest concern to date is data integrity, e.g., "Is the data good and how can I tell
that automatically?" Mr. Viggiano also observed the most important step needed at this time is a
single, standard data link to provide a common way to get information back and forth from aircraft.
He too made a call to action to get the transformation work started today.
Ken Arkind, Director of ATMS Network Centric Operations for the Raytheon Corporation said that a
good example of how NEO can provide value and worth is the Internet itself. In addition to breaking
down the stovepipe legacy, he saw some of the bigger challenges to NEO to include the need for
multi-levels of security, a trusted network and the ability to provide shared situational awareness.
Mr. Arkin noted that these challenges have been around for 10 years and quipped that to help meet
them, we should "steal" the solutions developed by DOD.
Session 4: Transforming the Air Transportation System Culture Towards NEO
The last session of the
symposium focused on people, technology and operational barriers that could prevent the aviation
community from deriving the maximum benefits from NEO and transformation. Tom Chrzanowski, Director,
FAA Programs and Domestic C41, Northrop Grumman Electronics Systems said the major challenges to a
NEO transformed air transportation system were interagency cooperation, technology, safety and
security, funding, business motivators and workforce acceptance. To break down some of these
barriers, he suggested showing, for example, the strong return on investment and how NEO can improve
workforce performance while cutting costs.
Robert Coulson, Senior Manager of Business Development, Civil Business Unit of the Harris
Corporation, contended that the barriers to NEO are cultural. Specifically, he said that the 9/11
terrorists attacks initially prompted security concerns over voice and surveillance services and
prompted the Government to halt any movement towards network centric operations and to retain the
existing stovepipes. Mr. Coulson thought that it is only now that the Government is coming back to
take another look at NEO and its benefits.
Professor George Donohue of George Mason University argued that any NEO must be designed for a
highly non-linear system and be highly adaptive. He stated that continuing the existing paradigm
will never improve system performance and that deregulated market forces will not solve existing and
future problems. Professor Donohue further contended that the cultures of the FAA, DOT, Office of
Management and Budget, Congress and the airlines must change if NEO is to be achieved.
John Fearnsides, Consultant, Lockheed Martin Corporation TSS argued that "if you want to change a
culture you have to change the processes." As an example, he pointed to the highly successful User
Request Evaluation Tool (URET) which was "developed in the counter-cultural" Free Flight environment
and has now been "absorbed into the culture."
Mr. Fearnsides went on to tell the symposium that "we are not moving towards NEO as quickly as
needed." He said that technological and architectural barriers exist, noting that operational and
major system changes are hard to accomplish at the same time. Moreover, Mr. Fearnsides believes that
"cultures do not change in the absence of well-defined reasons for change." To this end, he
contended that safety and security are "more powerful catalysts" than efficiency and capacity. Mr.
Fearnsides challenged the symposium's members to come up with a better definition of the capacity
problem and the implications of not solving it.
Michael Wambsganss was the final speaker of the session and the NEO symposium. He too believes that
it is important to demonstrate the value of NEO for aviation to justify the needed resources. Mr.
Wambganss saw some of the potential benefits as including improved predictability and adaptability
and the ability to address current NAS inefficiencies. Pointing to system that is highly
interdependent, he argued that congestion must be addressed on a system-wide basis, taking into
account its "non-linear aspects." Mr. Wambganss stated that we "should stop worrying about demand
versus being reactive" and that we should start extending the network concept into the user
community. Lastly, he observed that roles and responsibilities often change with information and
automation. "Air Traffic Management is not about Air Traffic Control," Mr. Wambganss concluded.
Honored Guest Speaker
Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski (ret.), Director of DOD's Office of Force
Transformation told the symposium that transformation is made up of "many small jumps and a few big
bets." Using GPS as an example, he said, "If you are not making big bets, you are a fixed target at
risk." The Vice Admiral described the elements of transformation, which include: creating and
anticipating the future; the co-evolution of concepts, processes organizations and technology; and a
change in attitudes, values and beliefs. Pointing to change versus infrastructure, he said, "You
have to decide which is the tail and which is the dog if you want to do transformation."