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Mark Your Calendar for Airport 2025

Airport 2025 is a consortium of government, research and industry leaders gathered to develop the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) to meet the needs of aviation in the 21st century.

Under the sponsorship of the Joint Planning & Development Office, NGATS and National Safe Skies Alliance will be holding its first meeting of government, research institutions, and private industry organized to map the course of aviation and aviation security for the coming decades. The National Safe Skies Alliance is a non-profit organization formed in 1997 to enhance the security of our nation's airports through a cooperative alliance of public and private organizations. It provides rigorous and impartial testing and evaluation of aviation safety and security technologies, policies and deployments.

Invited keynote speaker is Federal Aviation Administrator Marion Blakey. Other invited speakers include key government aviation officials and JPDO leaders.

The meeting will be held June 28-30, 2005 in Washington, DC. For find out more or register, go to

Introducing Colonel David Rhodes, Head of the SSA IPT

Col. Rhodes came to the Pentagon from his previous position as Chief, Homeland Security Division for the Air Force's Air Combat Command at Langley AFB, VA. Col Rhodes is career fighter pilot with impressive academic and professional curriculum vitae. Graduating first in his class from the Air Force Academy with a BS in Chemistry, he went on to earn a graduate degree in International Relations as an Olmstead Scholar at Universitat Konstanz, Germany. He is also a graduate of the National War College, and in addition to his peacetime and combat flying assignments, has served as both a White House Fellow and as Special Advisor for National Security Affairs to the Vice President.

Focus on Integrated Product Teams:
User Specific Shared Situational Awareness (SSA)

The Specific Shared Situational Awareness (SSA) IPT is chartered to develop an information sharing framework that will allow the various air transportation system communities of interest to share relevant information.

Air Force Colonel Dave Rhodes chairs the IPT. He splits his time at JPDO with his position as Assistant for Information Integration, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, at the Pentagon. Col. Rhodes' directorate serves as the focal point for DoD's role in integrating information across the Homeland Security community and is a natural fit for leading the activities of the JPDO SSA IPT.

The SSA IPT's vision is to "enable the development of an information-sharing environment (framework), globally compatible, accessible, and secure when required, that allows Air Transportation System communities of interest to share relevant up-to-the-second, accurate, and credible information - to make possible informed decision-making for routine, planned or crisis events."

The SSA IPT is one of JPDO's largest and most geographically wide-spread. It consists of approximately seventy-five contributors, representing the Departments of Defense (to include the US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command) and Homeland Security (to include Customs, the Coast Guard and TSA), as well as FAA and NASA. Its members span the US from the East Coast to Colorado.

Organizationally, SSA is subdivided into three principle subgroups, addressing the areas of Surveillance, Information Integration, and Communities of Interest Research and Development. The subgroups share the common characteristics of the JPDO organization as a whole, with both interagency and subject matter expert composition.

The Surveillance Subgroup is co-chaired by Mr. Tim Wallace, FAA, and Lt. Col. James "Kully" Smith, NORAD. Tim's team is responsible for developing a national airspace surveillance plan, monitoring and assessing existing and projected air and space surveillance studies, participating in and monitoring the Air Force's Capabilities Review and Risk Assessment program, and identifying and evaluating surveillance shortfalls. A good deal of the work in which this subgroup is involved is conducted in the secure arena. The Surveillance group is also charged with establishing and maintaining a liaison with OMB/HSC-led Information Sharing Council/Information Sharing Policy Coordinating Committee initiatives.

The Information Integration Subgroup will have the responsibility for several key initiatives, including assessing existing and planned government and industry initiatives, developing information assurance protocols, and advocating/promoting interagency network-enabled operations (NEO) solutions.

The Communities of Interest Subgroup is co-chaired by Ms. Elizabeth Soltys, FAA, and Ms. Terri Goodwin, NASA. This group is responsible for defining stakeholder communities of interest with specific focus on determining community-unique information-sharing capabilities and requirements. The subgroup will develop R&D proposals to facilitate Netcentric Operations, making recommendations concerning information sharing governance, and will also provide both industry and private entity liaison for the IPT.

The IPT meets formally about once every six weeks, though the subgroups meet more frequently in the interim. Future features will focus on the individuals participating in the subgroups, their activities and their progress.

In Air Traffic Management, 60 Seconds is a Long Time
Interview with JPDO Director Charlie Keegan

(Extracted from Raytheon's Defender Magazine)

Charlie Keegan looks forward to the day when a lot of people in America can have personal access to the proverbial "corporate jet." And he doesn't think it's that far around the corner. Seriously? Think about it. While luxury automobiles weigh in at $80,000+, in parallel there is a growing popularity of "fractional ownership," (partnerships between two or more parties to own and operate a single aircraft). So who's to say a few would-be jet-setters couldn't pool resources to purchase one of the $1 million+ very light jets that are coming on the market.

With up to 6,000 aircraft already crowding U.S. skies at any given time, and "free flight" in the not-so-distant future, the thought of the Joneses cruising from region to region for an afternoon picnic must scare the heck out of the nation's 15,000 air traffic handling an average of one landing once every 60 seconds at each of the nation's 5,000 airports.

Yet the thought of more aircraft in the skies over America doesn't scare Charlie Keegan, a pilot and former controller, whose job it is to peer beyond the year 2020 and come up with a blueprint for and then implement the Next Generation Air Transportation System. Feeding Keegan's confidence, and smack in the middle of such a blueprint, will be "network-enabled operations," or NEO as the FAA likes to call it. It is not too wild to suggest that NEO will do nothing less than fully transform the process of air traffic management in the United States, supplying pilots, controllers and passengers with vast new volumes of information to let them know virtually everything they need to fly safely, securely, on time, and potentially with greater freedom of navigation.

As the Director of the multi-government agency Joint Planning and Development Office, Charlie Keegan's job is to position the nation's air traffic management resources for a more complex and data-rich future. It's a future, Keegan maintains, that cannot be reached without network-enabled operations.

Network centricity is not just about connecting systems at the FAA. It's about connecting people and whole organizations too. Keegan is responsible for joint planning and coordination of the future air transportation system with an unprecedented roster of six government agencies including the Department of Transportation/FAA, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Commerce Department, NASA and the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy. Connecting six disparate government agencies around a single air traffic management mission, Keegan observes, will be the first "non-technical" networking test.

Charles Keegan, who began his career with the FAA as a flight controller in 1979, and served as Associate Administrator for Research and Acquisitions before his current assignment, spoke to Defender recently about a next generation challenge  to migrate the nation's air transportation system into the new millennium, with NEO as a partner.

Here's what he had to say.

Defender: The military tends to talk about network centricity in terms of tightening the "sensor-to-shooter" loop or getting more information to the warfighter. How does the FAA characterize this growing technology revolution?

Keegan: It's really not so different. It's about getting the best information through the chain of command to make good decisions. In this case, the end users happen to be pilots and air traffic controllers instead of warfighters. The information might concern the weight of the aircraft, fuel burn levels, delays, maintenance cycles, weather or even security precautions. There's tons of data out there. The goal is to get it to the decision-makers in the best way and as quickly as possible.

Defender: Describe some of the inherent benefits and attributes of a more network-centric air traffic management world.

Keegan: Sixty seconds is a very long time in the air traffic management environment. Some 5,000 to 6,000 aircraft are in the air at any given time traveling at speeds up to 600 knots, all seeking to land at a rate of one per minute per airport. What we consider routine would not be so casual by other standards. With all that volume, knowing the exact intent of each aircraft at every point in time would be extremely valuable. What are their passenger requirements? Which connections are they trying to make? Do they have any special requirements that have arisen? We have to have information everywhere, all the time. The data is available; the goal is to distribute it seamlessly to those who can make use of it; baggage handlers for instance. Having the information would help a lot of people get in and out, and up and down, more quickly. From a safety standpoint, in a network-centric environment we could remotely know much more about the air worthiness of an aircraft which, once again, could enable us to have the right response when necessary.

Defender: What are some of the key, enabling technologies that will help thrust U.S. air traffic management into the network centric future?

Keegan: At the forefront are the data links to provide an internet-like capability and the sensor technology to draw in more data. For example, some of the sensors on the ground and in the aircraft will enable us to fly closer together. The Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast system provides a unique way to identify nearby aircraft and to provide information to the pilot. The system can be used to reduce separation between planes. Data links with a wide variety of information resources are critical. We're experimenting with a set of protocols and creating an operational evaluation environment. There is a lot of information out there that state-of-the-art data links can help us deliver to the cockpit.

Defender: How can the expanded use of satellites help?

Keegan: Every time we decouple the airspace from the ground we're making progress. While aircraft do not have to fly directly over a ground station to maintain contact, they have to stay close. So we're not done with satellites by a long shot. Satellite navigation, communications and surveillance bring a lot of advantages. It enables a more fluid structure. Spectrum allocation issues also arise with ground based assets. That's another reason to cut the cord. Decoupling from ground assets would make it easier to fly wherever you want to go.

Defender: How will network-enabled operations facilitate free flight, or the ability to fly along self-charted routes with minimal restrictions?

Keegan: Anything that reduces the restrictions on the aircraft gets us one step closer to free flight. Network enabled operations could place tremendous capability in the aircraft, to pick a route, with "see-avoid" surveillance immediately available. Pilots could use more information to select their style of flight. For example, they may want to find the smoothest ride possible by relying on the best weather information. Or maybe they want to restrict fuel consumption.

Defender: How can network-enabled operations ease the burden on the nation's 15,000 air traffic controllers?

Keegan: Air traffic control is a highly manual, labor-intensive process. The controller identifies conflicts and forwards instructions to the pilot by voice. The pilot then takes action manually and validates that by voice back to the controller. The process of "see-ID-take action-validate" requires a lot of actions on the part of human beings. While that will never entirely go away, there are tremendous opportunities for automation. The pilots and the controllers shouldn't have to make all of the correlations when some of that can be done automatically. Since there will be increasing volumes of aircraft in the skies, we have to use automation to decrease some of the activities that require human beings. That's the only way to lessen the burden. A network-centric environment has to be in place to provide speed to operate.

Defender: How will your organization, the FAA's Joint Planning and Development Office, help the nation achieve its air traffic management goals?

Keegan: The team here is leading the prototyping of network enabled operations while bringing together multiple government agencies to focus on one mission. In addition to DOT and FAA, we're working with the DoD, the Department of Homeland Security, the Commerce Department, NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Although there are inherent challenges in a multi-agency effort of this size, the JPDO is uniquely challenged to help break through the bureaucratic hurdles and seize opportunities where our various agencies share interests and responsibilities. The first non-technical test of the system will be whether we can collaborate and implement an actual system. There are prototypes underway to demonstrate that we can hook up various elements of the aircraft and ground control elements with the security and defense infrastructure. However, we also have a responsibility to deploy new technology in a cost-effective, seamless way. Accomplishing this task will certainly keep us all busy and working together as the mission evolves.

Defender: In the broadest sense, what does NEO mean to the future of air traffic management in the United States?

Keegan: The data requirements will be too immense for humans to handle without the help of technology. The next generation system must rely much more on decisions made by machines and automation to do the job. Simply put, the future is not possible without network-centric operations.

UAVs Playing Big Role in War on Insurgents

The New York Times on April 5th reported that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are playing a pivotal role in the war in Iraq and are proving to be very popular with our ground troops. Used to help track insurgents, foil roadside bombings, protect convoys and launch missile attacks, their numbers have increased to more than 700 from just a handful four years ago. These aircraft, some of which are operated from a command hub 7,500 miles away at an airbase outside of Las Vegas, are also employed in Afghanistan. "Never before has the American military used so many remotely piloted aircraft in such diverse missions, and many officers call them the wave of the future," the Times said. However, the article also noted that a recent GAO report called for the Department of Defense to develop a viable strategic plan and oversight body to guide UAV development efforts and related investment decisions.

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