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Free Flight: The Future of Air Traffic Control Essay

In the 21st century airports became an ubiquitous part of many cities all over the globe and more and more people are opting to fly. The rapid growth of emerging economies such China, India, and other countries in Asia can only mean that the skies will experience traffic congestion, a transportation problem that is supposed to be applicable only to roads and highways and not to the vast airspace above cities. Thus, traditional air traffic management will no longer be able to handle the burden of too many airplanes coming in an out of airports.

A new method of air traffic management is required and one of the proposals is to use free flight a system where pilots are given more freedom to determine the best way to maneuver in an increasingly congested airspace. But there are many hurdles that must be overcome before free flight can be integrated into modern air traffic management systems. Aviation Safety The good old days of air travel are gone, when taking a flight was as simple as taking a ferry ride across a channel.

In the 21st century airports became an ubiquitous part of many cities all over the globe and more and more people are opting to fly. The rapid growth of emerging economies such China, India, and other countries in Asia can only mean that the skies will experience traffic congestion, a transportation problem that is supposed to be applicable only to roads and highways and not to the vast airspace above cities. Thus, traditional air traffic management will no longer be able to handle the burden of too many airplanes coming in an out of airports.

A new method of air traffic management is required and one of the proposals is to use free flight a system where pilots are given more freedom to determine the best way to maneuver in an increasingly congested airspace. But there are many hurdles that must be overcome before free flight can be integrated into modern air traffic management systems. Aviation Safety The good old days of air travel are gone, when taking a flight was as simple as taking a ferry ride across a channel.

With the advent of globalization, an explosion in population growth, rapidly evolving technology, and the ever present terrorist threat, taking a flight from one city to the next or from one continent to the next is becoming an ordeal. If it is a test of endurance and patience for passengers, it is important to point out that pilots and airline companies are also feeling the pressure. From the pilots point of view they can easily be overwhelmed by stress due to long flights, delays, and the need to negotiate new technologies as well as new protocols.

From the point of view of airline companies new protocols and an increasing number of airplanes moving in and out from a congested airport is not only a difficult situation to manage but also very costly. At the heart of the problem is an antiquated traffic management system that is badly in need of an overhaul and an upgrade. The over reliance on human supervisory control in air traffic management is creating an inefficient system that resulted in delayed flights and unjustifiable wastage of aviation fuel.

But if the number of airplanes will significantly increase in the next decade or so then it would be very hard for air traffic controllers to maintain accident-free airports. The sheer volume of air traffic would be unmanageable and the added stress on pilots, passengers, and aircraft will become very evident. One of the proposed solutions is to use a free flight system. The need for free flight can be understood using the following information: “Currently, U. S.

commercial aircraft do not fly point to point but, rather, follow segmented jet routes and en route airspace (the ‘long haul’ airspace starting about 40 miles – 64 km – from airports). Unfortunately, jet routes add unnecessary travel distance and time” (Knecht, 2008). The consequence of this type of traffic management is not hard to understand. Aside from potential delays and other inefficiencies, the inability of pilots to quickly land their aircraft will increase the probability of accidents as airspaces become congested with planes encircling airports.

A free flight system uses technology to provide digital information to pilots so they will be freed from auditory messages coming from air traffic controllers. Based on what is going on in many sectors of society and most especially in the military, the future of the aviation safety is moving towards “unmanned systems” or the need for more automation with improvements in technology and therefore requiring less direct human inputs through manual control (Cummings & Guerlain, 2007).

Aside from the speed and efficiency of establishing a flight pattern to land the aircraft as soon as possible, free flight can also contribute in achieving improved aviation safety. This is because “en route conflicts” can be minimized. According to one report, “En route ‘conflicts’ are defined as any two aircraft approaching within 5 nautical miles or 9. 3 km of each other (Knecht, 2008). If the number of airplanes will increase as predicted then “en route conflicts” will also increase as more and more planes will have to navigate a more congested airspace. Air Traffic Management

Critics are always highlighting the fact that air traffic controllers use 1960s vintage equipment. One of the said critics provided an illustration as to how problems are exacerbated by the antiquated design of the system and he wrote, “Though his radar is two-dimensional, the controller must envision the planes’ flight paths in three dimensions … He must take into account that, say, one plane is turning sharply and rapidly descending while the other is slowly climbing … he’ll quickly get on his radio to instruct one of the pilots … only if his message isn’t garbled or drowned out or misunderstood will an accident be averted” (Leslie, 1996).

But in the 1990s much has been done to prevent this frightening possibility from ever occurring. It is a good thing that improved aircraft technology, has now made it possible to fly with precision. The pilots can work with computers to input any desired path from one point to another in the continental United States … and to optimize for whatever criteria are desired – distance, time, fuel consumption, and so forth (Remington et al. , 2000).

In this way pilots can have more freedom and more authority to navigate constricted airspaces and position their aircraft to achieve time-efficient schedules while at the same time preventing accidents from happening. Aside from the ability to optimize flight patterns a free flight system eliminates potential errors coming from auditory messages – the typical means of communication between traffic controllers and pilots. This is illustrated below: Fig. 1.

Significant difference in errors when auditory and visual messages were compared. (Source: Wickens, et al. , 2003) It must also be made clear that air traffic controllers are not only responsible for positioning aircrafts and guiding pilots on where to go especially if the volume of traffic reaches a critical point. Air traffic controllers are also responsible in guiding pilots if an emergency arises. There are so many things that can go wrong in an airports.

The arrival and departure of airplanes require the skill and dedication of experienced air traffic controllers who are knowledgeable not only on how to direct and guide pilots but they are also aware about other relevant information that can help in an emergency but may be non-essential for a pilot whose main goal is to land and fly the airplane in the most efficient manner. Thus, air traffic controllers are knowledgeable about the following information but there is no guarantee that pilots are aware of the same: • Traffic volume and flow;

• Types of aircraft operating within the sector; • Location and activity of nearby terminal facilities; • Special operations and procedures (e. g. military operations); • Equipment limitations; and • Radar and radio coverage (Durso et al. , 2004). Free Flight In the worlds of experts, “One proposed change to the national airspace system, designed to increase its capacity, involves allocating more authority over flight path selection to the individual pilot. This proposed increase in pilot authority has been termed free flight or use-preferred routing (Wickens, Helleberg, & Xu, 2002).

As mentioned earlier not only are air traffic controllers overburdened by an increasing workload, their equipment are also limited to two dimensional displays while pilots had a much better vantage point when it comes to observing the world outside their cockpits. In short if pilots are given access to technology that will allow them to be aware of nearby airplanes as well as the trajectories open for them, they are in a better position to decide what to do with their aircraft while approaching to land.

One example of a technology that can initiate the transition from antiquated air traffic management systems to free flight is an equipment called “Cockpit display of traffic information” or (CDTI) and data link communications system. According to those who are knowledgeable about this system, “One function of CDTI will be to help pilots understand where traffic outside can be spotted and thus aid them I calling out ‘traffic in sight’ by replacing traditional role of ATC I guiding attention through oral instructions (e. g.

“watch for traffic, 10:00 high, 2 miles out”). In the case of the data link, the intention is to provide a visual text version of instructions (e. g. “climb to flight level 220). (Wickens & Goh, 2003). Figure 1, is one of the best illustration that can help explain the weakness of the traditional system of communication when there is an over reliance on auditory messages. Fig. 2. CDTI can be seen on the black display on the left while the data link messages can be seen in the white rectangle just above CDTI. (Source: Wickens & Goh, 2003) Problems Encountered

While there is great promise to the use of free flight systems there are those who have reservations to quickly adopting the new method of air traffic management. For one, “This alteration could have major implications for a single-pilot aircraft, in which visual attention is already heavily burdened by responsibilities of instrument-panel scanning and outside-world world monitoring” (Wickens & Goh, 2003). There are planes that have only one pilot and the technological advances such as the one described in the preceding pages may overwhelm the solitary pilot.

But there is one more problem associated with free flight. Even with the use present day aircraft design and instrument panels a pilot is already overburdened by the need to pay careful attention to the details of the flight. Thus, “…changing from auditory to visual communication in an already very busy “visual environment” (Wickens & Goh, 2003), can be a tough challenge. These are some of the issues that needed to be addressed before a free flight systems can become a mainstay of international airports:

• Pilots must be able to process information coming from instrument panels, maps, specialized navigational instruments; and • In good weather pilots must be able to process visual information coming from outside and this includes hazardous objects, air traffic, terrain etc. (Wickens & Goh, 2003). • Pilots relying on auditory messages can experience error – memory lapses – especially when messages are long. A free flight system if it will be implemented will not create some sort of an artificial intelligence guiding the aircraft.

This means that pilots will still have to make a decision especially when there are problems and in emergency cases where free flight can obviously encounter problems. For instance, “When pilots maneuver to avoid a point or volume in space … any combination of vertical (climb, descend) lateral (left-right) and longitudinal (speed, slow) changes is available (Wickens, Helleberg, & Xu, 2002). There can multiple scenarios that the computer may not be able to predict and it is up to the pilot using free flight to make the best decision.

Moreover, even if pilots have access to 3D visualization, this type of technology could not display information regarding the speed of other aircraft in the area of conflict. In other words there are so many things that the pilots needed to know but current free flight technology is still unable to help them with. This will lead to the discussion of creating a system that can use the best of both worlds – current air traffic management systems and free flight. Fig. 2.

A typical aircraft where pilots are heavily burdened by responsibilities of instrument-panel scanning and outside-world monitoring. (Source: JPDPO, 2009) Another issue that needs to be resolved concerns security in a time when terrorism is on the rise. It is hard to dissociate free flight from autonomy, meaning, the pilots can operate on their own without directly communicating with ground controllers. If ever there are terrorists on board they will have the luxury of time and freedom of movement and delaying detection by the aviation authorities from below.

Autonomy could also mean that pilots can be isolated from others and if there is a security threat in the area it is possible that pilots may never know as they are fully focused on their planes and not mindful of the rest. The solution that will be outlined below will attempt to address not only technological challenges inherent in free flight systems but also on how to make it safe by allowing pilots to have access to information pertaining to the overall picture of the flight from the time they depart, when they are en route to their destination and finally when on their final approach before landing.

Moreover, there are other factors that must be considered in designing a free flight system. In a post- 9/11 world Americans are well aware of the folly of isolation. This means that the FAA, airline executives and managers of international airports must work together in conjunction with other government agencies especially when it comes to ensuring airline safety. Thus, there are government agencies like the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) that is tasked to initiate strategic changes in the United States especially when it comes to transportation.

According to their official website, the JPDO is the central organization that coordinates the specialized efforts of the Department of Transportation, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, FAA, NASA, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (JPDO, 2009). The JPDO is in the midst of developing the next generation air transportation system because of obvious problems that the agency was able to succinctly describe in the following statement: By 2025 U. S.

air traffic will increase dramatically, two to three times and that the traditional air traffic control system will never be able to manage this growth (JPDO, 2009). The JPDO is ready to develop technology and new protocols that will combine not only highly efficient equipment but also to enable pilots to have access to data needed for a safe pilot such as weather conditions and information concerning emergencies and other problems that may be waiting for them in the next airport. Possible Solutions One solution is to agree on a compromise between free flight and the use of humans as in air traffic controllers.

According to experts, “Even though pilots would be responsible for maintaining separation and awareness of immediate traffic, ATCos would still be required to oversee separation assurance, intervene under emergency conditions (failure of on-board traffic awareness systems), and monitor the transition of flights to managed airspace” (Metzger & Parasuraman, 2001). This makes sense and there is no reason why this proposal could not be accepted at least in the interim wherein free flight systems are still far from being perfect. Conclusion

There is no need to elaborate as to the need for a more sophisticated and highly efficient air traffic management system. The first concern is linked to the ever increasing volume of air traffic brought upon by globalization and increase in trade between highly industrialized countries and emerging economies. In the next few decades the world will see a sudden rise in the number of congested airports and also the inherent dangers associated when pilots jockey for position in the hopes of landing their aircraft in the shortest time possible.

The pilots are not only anxious to land their aircraft safety but expediently, airline companies are also concern about the unnecessary wastage not only in fuel but time and money spent on maintaining their aircraft as well as the level of customer satisfaction that can be affected every time an airplane is delayed from landing to take-off. Aside from reducing expenses a faster way to land aircraft will also increase safety as it will significantly reduce the number of airplanes encircling above the city. Free flight is one of the obvious answers to this dilemma.

It was already made clear as to the limitations faced by air traffic controllers. They are using antiquated equipment that can only see in two dimensions while they are dealing with realities that occur in three dimensions. The pilots are in a better position to decide for themselves because they are not worried about other aircraft they are solely focused on their own plane, whereas the air traffic controller who is in-charge of all the airplanes entering his area of responsibility. But again it is not going to be that simple.

If air traffic controllers are taken out of the equation then pilots will have to rely on technology to guide them. On one hand technology is the best guide because it is not prone to human error as compared to the highly unreliable auditory messages coming from air traffic controls (see Figure 1). On the other hand the technology is not yet perfect and when there is an emergency or when there is foul weather a pilot can be easily disoriented and again in need of air traffic controllers. Air traffic controllers are also aware of other factors and other information that may not be available to pilots.

This is easy to understand because air traffic controllers are in their turn and they know if there is, say, a military facility or ongoing military training in the area. They are also aware of the limitations of their radar equipment as well as the volume of air traffic in the area. These information can be very helpful in cases of emergencies. Therefore the possible solution is to create a system where pilots can transition from the old system of traffic management to those that involved free flight.

But a system must be in place where air traffic controllers can easily assert control especially if there are unforeseen problems that may hamper the pilot’s ability to control the plane. References Cummings, M. L. & S. Guerlain. (2007). Developing Operator Capacity Estimates for Supervisory Control of Autonomous Vehicles. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 49(1): 1-15. Durso, F. et al. (2004). The Use of Flight Progress Strips While Working Live Traffic: Frequencies, Importance, and Perceived Benefits. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 46(1): 32-49. Erev, I. , G. Barron, & R.

Remington. (2004). Right of Way in the Sky: Two Problems in Aircraft Self-Separation and the Auction-Bases Solution. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 46(2): 267-276. Joint Planning and Development Office. (2009). “A New Paradigm for the 21st Century. JPDO. Retrieved 21 January 2009 from http://www. jpdo. gov/ Knecht, W. (2008). Testing a Multidimensional Nonveridical Aircraft Collision Avoidance System. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 50(4): 565-575. Leslie, J. (1996). “Free Flight: The Solution to Antiquated Air Traffic Control Systems. ” Retrieved 20 January 2009 from http://www.

wired. com/ wired/archive/4. 04/es. faa. html Metzger, U. & R. Parasuraman. (2005). Automation in Future Air Traffic Management: Effects of Decision Aid Reliability on Controller Performance and Mental Workload. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 47(1): 35-49. Metzger, U. & R. Parasuraman. (2001). The Role of Air Traffic Controller in Future Air Traffic Management: An Empirical Study of Active Control versus Passive Monitoring. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 43(4): 519-528. Remington, R. et al. (2000). Visual Search in Complex Displays: Factors Affecting

Conflict Detection by Air Traffic Controllers. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 42(3): 349-366. Thomas, L. & C. Wickens. (2008). Display Dimensionality and Conflict Geometry Effects on Maneuver Preferences for Resolving In-Flight Conflict. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 50(4): 576-588. Wickens, C. et al. (2003). Attention Models of Multitask Pilot Performance Using Advanced Display Technology. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 45(3): 360- 380. Wickens, C. , J. Helleberg, & X. Xu. (2002). Pilot Maneuver Choice and Workload in Free Flight. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 44(2): 171-188.

In the 21st century airports became an ubiquitous part of many cities all over the globe and more and more people are opting to fly. The rapid growth of emerging economies such China, India, and other countries in Asia can only mean that the skies will experience traffic congestion, a transportation problem that is supposed to be applicable only to roads and highways and not to the vast airspace above cities. Thus, traditional air traffic management will no longer be able to handle the burden of too many airplanes coming in an out of airports.

A new method of air traffic management is required and one of the proposals is to use free flight a system where pilots are given more freedom to determine the best way to maneuver in an increasingly congested airspace. But there are many hurdles that must be overcome before free flight can be integrated into modern air traffic management systems. Aviation Safety The good old days of air travel are gone, when taking a flight was as simple as taking a ferry ride across a channel.

With the advent of globalization, an explosion in population growth, rapidly evolving technology, and the ever present terrorist threat, taking a flight from one city to the next or from one continent to the next is becoming an ordeal. If it is a test of endurance and patience for passengers, it is important to point out that pilots and airline companies are also feeling the pressure. From the pilots point of view they can easily be overwhelmed by stress due to long flights, delays, and the need to negotiate new technologies as well as new protocols.

From the point of view of airline companies new protocols and an increasing number of airplanes moving in and out from a congested airport is not only a difficult situation to manage but also very costly. At the heart of the problem is an antiquated traffic management system that is badly in need of an overhaul and an upgrade. The over reliance on human supervisory control in air traffic management is creating an inefficient system that resulted in delayed flights and unjustifiable wastage of aviation fuel.

But if the number of airplanes will significantly increase in the next decade or so then it would be very hard for air traffic controllers to maintain accident-free airports. The sheer volume of air traffic would be unmanageable and the added stress on pilots, passengers, and aircraft will become very evident. One of the proposed solutions is to use a free flight system. The need for free flight can be understood using the following information: “Currently, U. S.

commercial aircraft do not fly point to point but, rather, follow segmented jet routes and en route airspace (the ‘long haul’ airspace starting about 40 miles – 64 km – from airports). Unfortunately, jet routes add unnecessary travel distance and time” (Knecht, 2008). The consequence of this type of traffic management is not hard to understand. Aside from potential delays and other inefficiencies, the inability of pilots to quickly land their aircraft will increase the probability of accidents as airspaces become congested with planes encircling airports.

A free flight system uses technology to provide digital information to pilots so they will be freed from auditory messages coming from air traffic controllers. Based on what is going on in many sectors of society and most especially in the military, the future of the aviation safety is moving towards “unmanned systems” or the need for more automation with improvements in technology and therefore requiring less direct human inputs through manual control (Cummings & Guerlain, 2007).

Aside from the speed and efficiency of establishing a flight pattern to land the aircraft as soon as possible, free flight can also contribute in achieving improved aviation safety. This is because “en route conflicts” can be minimized. According to one report, “En route ‘conflicts’ are defined as any two aircraft approaching within 5 nautical miles or 9. 3 km of each other (Knecht, 2008). If the number of airplanes will increase as predicted then “en route conflicts” will also increase as more and more planes will have to navigate a more congested airspace. Air Traffic Management

Critics are always highlighting the fact that air traffic controllers use 1960s vintage equipment. One of the said critics provided an illustration as to how problems are exacerbated by the antiquated design of the system and he wrote, “Though his radar is two-dimensional, the controller must envision the planes’ flight paths in three dimensions … He must take into account that, say, one plane is turning sharply and rapidly descending while the other is slowly climbing … he’ll quickly get on his radio to instruct one of the pilots … only if his message isn’t garbled or drowned out or misunderstood will an accident be averted” (Leslie, 1996).

But in the 1990s much has been done to prevent this frightening possibility from ever occurring. It is a good thing that improved aircraft technology, has now made it possible to fly with precision. The pilots can work with computers to input any desired path from one point to another in the continental United States … and to optimize for whatever criteria are desired – distance, time, fuel consumption, and so forth (Remington et al. , 2000).

In this way pilots can have more freedom and more authority to navigate constricted airspaces and position their aircraft to achieve time-efficient schedules while at the same time preventing accidents from happening. Aside from the ability to optimize flight patterns a free flight system eliminates potential errors coming from auditory messages – the typical means of communication between traffic controllers and pilots. This is illustrated below: Fig. 1.

Significant difference in errors when auditory and visual messages were compared. (Source: Wickens, et al. , 2003) It must also be made clear that air traffic controllers are not only responsible for positioning aircrafts and guiding pilots on where to go especially if the volume of traffic reaches a critical point. Air traffic controllers are also responsible in guiding pilots if an emergency arises. There are so many things that can go wrong in an airports.

The arrival and departure of airplanes require the skill and dedication of experienced air traffic controllers who are knowledgeable not only on how to direct and guide pilots but they are also aware about other relevant information that can help in an emergency but may be non-essential for a pilot whose main goal is to land and fly the airplane in the most efficient manner. Thus, air traffic controllers are knowledgeable about the following information but there is no guarantee that pilots are aware of the same: • Traffic volume and flow;

• Types of aircraft operating within the sector; • Location and activity of nearby terminal facilities; • Special operations and procedures (e. g. military operations); • Equipment limitations; and • Radar and radio coverage (Durso et al. , 2004). Free Flight In the worlds of experts, “One proposed change to the national airspace system, designed to increase its capacity, involves allocating more authority over flight path selection to the individual pilot. This proposed increase in pilot authority has been termed free flight or use-preferred routing (Wickens, Helleberg, & Xu, 2002).

As mentioned earlier not only are air traffic controllers overburdened by an increasing workload, their equipment are also limited to two dimensional displays while pilots had a much better vantage point when it comes to observing the world outside their cockpits. In short if pilots are given access to technology that will allow them to be aware of nearby airplanes as well as the trajectories open for them, they are in a better position to decide what to do with their aircraft while approaching to land.

One example of a technology that can initiate the transition from antiquated air traffic management systems to free flight is an equipment called “Cockpit display of traffic information” or (CDTI) and data link communications system. According to those who are knowledgeable about this system, “One function of CDTI will be to help pilots understand where traffic outside can be spotted and thus aid them I calling out ‘traffic in sight’ by replacing traditional role of ATC I guiding attention through oral instructions (e. g.

“watch for traffic, 10:00 high, 2 miles out”). In the case of the data link, the intention is to provide a visual text version of instructions (e. g. “climb to flight level 220). (Wickens & Goh, 2003). Figure 1, is one of the best illustration that can help explain the weakness of the traditional system of communication when there is an over reliance on auditory messages. Fig. 2. CDTI can be seen on the black display on the left while the data link messages can be seen in the white rectangle just above CDTI. (Source: Wickens & Goh, 2003) Problems Encountered

While there is great promise to the use of free flight systems there are those who have reservations to quickly adopting the new method of air traffic management. For one, “This alteration could have major implications for a single-pilot aircraft, in which visual attention is already heavily burdened by responsibilities of instrument-panel scanning and outside-world world monitoring” (Wickens & Goh, 2003). There are planes that have only one pilot and the technological advances such as the one described in the preceding pages may overwhelm the solitary pilot.

But there is one more problem associated with free flight. Even with the use present day aircraft design and instrument panels a pilot is already overburdened by the need to pay careful attention to the details of the flight. Thus, “…changing from auditory to visual communication in an already very busy “visual environment” (Wickens & Goh, 2003), can be a tough challenge. These are some of the issues that needed to be addressed before a free flight systems can become a mainstay of international airports:

• Pilots must be able to process information coming from instrument panels, maps, specialized navigational instruments; and • In good weather pilots must be able to process visual information coming from outside and this includes hazardous objects, air traffic, terrain etc. (Wickens & Goh, 2003). • Pilots relying on auditory messages can experience error – memory lapses – especially when messages are long. A free flight system if it will be implemented will not create some sort of an artificial intelligence guiding the aircraft.

This means that pilots will still have to make a decision especially when there are problems and in emergency cases where free flight can obviously encounter problems. For instance, “When pilots maneuver to avoid a point or volume in space … any combination of vertical (climb, descend) lateral (left-right) and longitudinal (speed, slow) changes is available (Wickens, Helleberg, & Xu, 2002). There can multiple scenarios that the computer may not be able to predict and it is up to the pilot using free flight to make the best decision.

Moreover, even if pilots have access to 3D visualization, this type of technology could not display information regarding the speed of other aircraft in the area of conflict. In other words there are so many things that the pilots needed to know but current free flight technology is still unable to help them with. This will lead to the discussion of creating a system that can use the best of both worlds – current air traffic management systems and free flight. Fig. 2.

A typical aircraft where pilots are heavily burdened by responsibilities of instrument-panel scanning and outside-world monitoring. (Source: JPDPO, 2009) Another issue that needs to be resolved concerns security in a time when terrorism is on the rise. It is hard to dissociate free flight from autonomy, meaning, the pilots can operate on their own without directly communicating with ground controllers. If ever there are terrorists on board they will have the luxury of time and freedom of movement and delaying detection by the aviation authorities from below.

Autonomy could also mean that pilots can be isolated from others and if there is a security threat in the area it is possible that pilots may never know as they are fully focused on their planes and not mindful of the rest. The solution that will be outlined below will attempt to address not only technological challenges inherent in free flight systems but also on how to make it safe by allowing pilots to have access to information pertaining to the overall picture of the flight from the time they depart, when they are en route to their destination and finally when on their final approach before landing.

Moreover, there are other factors that must be considered in designing a free flight system. In a post- 9/11 world Americans are well aware of the folly of isolation. This means that the FAA, airline executives and managers of international airports must work together in conjunction with other government agencies especially when it comes to ensuring airline safety. Thus, there are government agencies like the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) that is tasked to initiate strategic changes in the United States especially when it comes to transportation.

According to their official website, the JPDO is the central organization that coordinates the specialized efforts of the Department of Transportation, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, FAA, NASA, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (JPDO, 2009). The JPDO is in the midst of developing the next generation air transportation system because of obvious problems that the agency was able to succinctly describe in the following statement: By 2025 U. S.

air traffic will increase dramatically, two to three times and that the traditional air traffic control system will never be able to manage this growth (JPDO, 2009). The JPDO is ready to develop technology and new protocols that will combine not only highly efficient equipment but also to enable pilots to have access to data needed for a safe pilot such as weather conditions and information concerning emergencies and other problems that may be waiting for them in the next airport. Possible Solutions One solution is to agree on a compromise between free flight and the use of humans as in air traffic controllers.

According to experts, “Even though pilots would be responsible for maintaining separation and awareness of immediate traffic, ATCos would still be required to oversee separation assurance, intervene under emergency conditions (failure of on-board traffic awareness systems), and monitor the transition of flights to managed airspace” (Metzger & Parasuraman, 2001). This makes sense and there is no reason why this proposal could not be accepted at least in the interim wherein free flight systems are still far from being perfect. Conclusion

There is no need to elaborate as to the need for a more sophisticated and highly efficient air traffic management system. The first concern is linked to the ever increasing volume of air traffic brought upon by globalization and increase in trade between highly industrialized countries and emerging economies. In the next few decades the world will see a sudden rise in the number of congested airports and also the inherent dangers associated when pilots jockey for position in the hopes of landing their aircraft in the shortest time possible.

The pilots are not only anxious to land their aircraft safety but expediently, airline companies are also concern about the unnecessary wastage not only in fuel but time and money spent on maintaining their aircraft as well as the level of customer satisfaction that can be affected every time an airplane is delayed from landing to take-off. Aside from reducing expenses a faster way to land aircraft will also increase safety as it will significantly reduce the number of airplanes encircling above the city. Free flight is one of the obvious answers to this dilemma.

It was already made clear as to the limitations faced by air traffic controllers. They are using antiquated equipment that can only see in two dimensions while they are dealing with realities that occur in three dimensions. The pilots are in a better position to decide for themselves because they are not worried about other aircraft they are solely focused on their own plane, whereas the air traffic controller who is in-charge of all the airplanes entering his area of responsibility. But again it is not going to be that simple.

If air traffic controllers are taken out of the equation then pilots will have to rely on technology to guide them. On one hand technology is the best guide because it is not prone to human error as compared to the highly unreliable auditory messages coming from air traffic controls (see Figure 1). On the other hand the technology is not yet perfect and when there is an emergency or when there is foul weather a pilot can be easily disoriented and again in need of air traffic controllers. Air traffic controllers are also aware of other factors and other information that may not be available to pilots.

This is easy to understand because air traffic controllers are in their turn and they know if there is, say, a military facility or ongoing military training in the area. They are also aware of the limitations of their radar equipment as well as the volume of air traffic in the area. These information can be very helpful in cases of emergencies. Therefore the possible solution is to create a system where pilots can transition from the old system of traffic management to those that involved free flight.

But a system must be in place where air traffic controllers can easily assert control especially if there are unforeseen problems that may hamper the pilot’s ability to control the plane. References Cummings, M. L. & S. Guerlain. (2007). Developing Operator Capacity Estimates for Supervisory Control of Autonomous Vehicles. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 49(1): 1-15. Durso, F. et al. (2004). The Use of Flight Progress Strips While Working Live Traffic: Frequencies, Importance, and Perceived Benefits. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 46(1): 32-49. Erev, I. , G. Barron, & R.

Remington. (2004). Right of Way in the Sky: Two Problems in Aircraft Self-Separation and the Auction-Bases Solution. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 46(2): 267-276. Joint Planning and Development Office. (2009). “A New Paradigm for the 21st Century. JPDO. Retrieved 21 January 2009 from http://www. jpdo. gov/ Knecht, W. (2008). Testing a Multidimensional Nonveridical Aircraft Collision Avoidance System. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 50(4): 565-575. Leslie, J. (1996).

“Free Flight: The Solution to Antiquated Air Traffic Control Systems. ” Retrieved 20 January 2009 from http://www.wired. com/ wired/archive/4. 04/es. faa. html Metzger, U. & R. Parasuraman. (2005). Automation in Future Air Traffic Management: Effects of Decision Aid Reliability on Controller Performance and Mental Workload. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 47(1): 35-49. Metzger, U. & R. Parasuraman. (2001). The Role of Air Traffic Controller in Future Air Traffic Management: An Empirical Study of Active Control versus Passive Monitoring. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 43(4): 519-528. Remington, R. et al. (2000). Visual Search in Complex Displays: Factors Affecting

Conflict Detection by Air Traffic Controllers. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 42(3): 349-366. Thomas, L. & C. Wickens. (2008). Display Dimensionality and Conflict Geometry Effects on Maneuver Preferences for Resolving In-Flight Conflict. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 50(4): 576-588. Wickens, C. et al. (2003). Attention Models of Multitask Pilot Performance Using Advanced Display Technology. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 45(3): 360- 380. Wickens, C. , J. Helleberg, & X. Xu. (2002). Pilot Maneuver Choice and Workload in Free Flight. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 44(2): 171-188.

With the advent of globalization, an explosion in population growth, rapidly evolving technology, and the ever present terrorist threat, taking a flight from one city to the next or from one continent to the next is becoming an ordeal. If it is a test of endurance and patience for passengers, it is important to point out that pilots and airline companies are also feeling the pressure. From the pilots point of view they can easily be overwhelmed by stress due to long flights, delays, and the need to negotiate new technologies as well as new protocols.

From the point of view of airline companies new protocols and an increasing number of airplanes moving in and out from a congested airport is not only a difficult situation to manage but also very costly. At the heart of the problem is an antiquated traffic management system that is badly in need of an overhaul and an upgrade. The over reliance on human supervisory control in air traffic management is creating an inefficient system that resulted in delayed flights and unjustifiable wastage of aviation fuel.

But if the number of airplanes will significantly increase in the next decade or so then it would be very hard for air traffic controllers to maintain accident-free airports. The sheer volume of air traffic would be unmanageable and the added stress on pilots, passengers, and aircraft will become very evident. One of the proposed solutions is to use a free flight system.

The need for free flight can be understood using the following information: “Currently, U. S. commercial aircraft do not fly point to point but, rather, follow segmented jet routes and en route airspace (the ‘long haul’ airspace starting about 40 miles – 64 km – from airports). Unfortunately, jet routes add unnecessary travel distance and time” (Knecht, 2008). The consequence of this type of traffic management is not hard to understand. Aside from potential delays and other inefficiencies, the inability of pilots to quickly land their aircraft will increase the probability of accidents as airspaces become congested with planes encircling airports.

A free flight system uses technology to provide digital information to pilots so they will be freed from auditory messages coming from air traffic controllers. Based on what is going on in many sectors of society and most especially in the military, the future of the aviation safety is moving towards “unmanned systems” or the need for more automation with improvements in technology and therefore requiring less direct human inputs through manual control (Cummings & Guerlain, 2007).

Aside from the speed and efficiency of establishing a flight pattern to land the aircraft as soon as possible, free flight can also contribute in achieving improved aviation safety. This is because “en route conflicts” can be minimized. According to one report, “En route ‘conflicts’ are defined as any two aircraft approaching within 5 nautical miles or 9. 3 km of each other (Knecht, 2008). If the number of airplanes will increase as predicted then “en route conflicts” will also increase as more and more planes will have to navigate a more congested airspace. Air Traffic Management

Critics are always highlighting the fact that air traffic controllers use 1960s vintage equipment. One of the said critics provided an illustration as to how problems are exacerbated by the antiquated design of the system and he wrote, “Though his radar is two-dimensional, the controller must envision the planes’ flight paths in three dimensions … He must take into account that, say, one plane is turning sharply and rapidly descending while the other is slowly climbing … he’ll quickly get on his radio to instruct one of the pilots … only if his message isn’t garbled or drowned out or misunderstood will an accident be averted” (Leslie, 1996).

But in the 1990s much has been done to prevent this frightening possibility from ever occurring. It is a good thing that improved aircraft technology, has now made it possible to fly with precision. The pilots can work with computers to input any desired path from one point to another in the continental United States … and to optimize for whatever criteria are desired – distance, time, fuel consumption, and so forth (Remington et al. , 2000).

In this way pilots can have more freedom and more authority to navigate constricted airspaces and position their aircraft to achieve time-efficient schedules while at the same time preventing accidents from happening. Aside from the ability to optimize flight patterns a free flight system eliminates potential errors coming from auditory messages – the typical means of communication between traffic controllers and pilots. This is illustrated below: Fig. 1.

Significant difference in errors when auditory and visual messages were compared. (Source: Wickens, et al. , 2003) It must also be made clear that air traffic controllers are not only responsible for positioning aircrafts and guiding pilots on where to go especially if the volume of traffic reaches a critical point. Air traffic controllers are also responsible in guiding pilots if an emergency arises. There are so many things that can go wrong in an airports.

The arrival and departure of airplanes require the skill and dedication of experienced air traffic controllers who are knowledgeable not only on how to direct and guide pilots but they are also aware about other relevant information that can help in an emergency but may be non-essential for a pilot whose main goal is to land and fly the airplane in the most efficient manner. Thus, air traffic controllers are knowledgeable about the following information but there is no guarantee that pilots are aware of the same: • Traffic volume and flow;

• Types of aircraft operating within the sector; • Location and activity of nearby terminal facilities; • Special operations and procedures (e. g. military operations); • Equipment limitations; and • Radar and radio coverage (Durso et al. , 2004). Free Flight In the worlds of experts, “One proposed change to the national airspace system, designed to increase its capacity, involves allocating more authority over flight path selection to the individual pilot. This proposed increase in pilot authority has been termed free flight or use-preferred routing (Wickens, Helleberg, & Xu, 2002).

As mentioned earlier not only are air traffic controllers overburdened by an increasing workload, their equipment are also limited to two dimensional displays while pilots had a much better vantage point when it comes to observing the world outside their cockpits. In short if pilots are given access to technology that will allow them to be aware of nearby airplanes as well as the trajectories open for them, they are in a better position to decide what to do with their aircraft while approaching to land.

One example of a technology that can initiate the transition from antiquated air traffic management systems to free flight is an equipment called “Cockpit display of traffic information” or (CDTI) and data link communications system. According to those who are knowledgeable about this system, “One function of CDTI will be to help pilots understand where traffic outside can be spotted and thus aid them I calling out ‘traffic in sight’ by replacing traditional role of ATC I guiding attention through oral instructions (e. g.

“watch for traffic, 10:00 high, 2 miles out”). In the case of the data link, the intention is to provide a visual text version of instructions (e. g. “climb to flight level 220). (Wickens & Goh, 2003). Figure 1, is one of the best illustration that can help explain the weakness of the traditional system of communication when there is an over reliance on auditory messages. Fig. 2. CDTI can be seen on the black display on the left while the data link messages can be seen in the white rectangle just above CDTI. (Source: Wickens & Goh, 2003) Problems Encountered

While there is great promise to the use of free flight systems there are those who have reservations to quickly adopting the new method of air traffic management. For one, “This alteration could have major implications for a single-pilot aircraft, in which visual attention is already heavily burdened by responsibilities of instrument-panel scanning and outside-world world monitoring” (Wickens & Goh, 2003). There are planes that have only one pilot and the technological advances such as the one described in the preceding pages may overwhelm the solitary pilot.

But there is one more problem associated with free flight. Even with the use present day aircraft design and instrument panels a pilot is already overburdened by the need to pay careful attention to the details of the flight. Thus, “…changing from auditory to visual communication in an already very busy “visual environment” (Wickens & Goh, 2003), can be a tough challenge. These are some of the issues that needed to be addressed before a free flight systems can become a mainstay of international airports:

• Pilots must be able to process information coming from instrument panels, maps, specialized navigational instruments; and • In good weather pilots must be able to process visual information coming from outside and this includes hazardous objects, air traffic, terrain etc. (Wickens & Goh, 2003). • Pilots relying on auditory messages can experience error – memory lapses – especially when messages are long. A free flight system if it will be implemented will not create some sort of an artificial intelligence guiding the aircraft.

This means that pilots will still have to make a decision especially when there are problems and in emergency cases where free flight can obviously encounter problems. For instance, “When pilots maneuver to avoid a point or volume in space … any combination of vertical (climb, descend) lateral (left-right) and longitudinal (speed, slow) changes is available (Wickens, Helleberg, & Xu, 2002). There can multiple scenarios that the computer may not be able to predict and it is up to the pilot using free flight to make the best decision.

Moreover, even if pilots have access to 3D visualization, this type of technology could not display information regarding the speed of other aircraft in the area of conflict. In other words there are so many things that the pilots needed to know but current free flight technology is still unable to help them with. This will lead to the discussion of creating a system that can use the best of both worlds – current air traffic management systems and free flight. Fig. 2.

A typical aircraft where pilots are heavily burdened by responsibilities of instrument-panel scanning and outside-world monitoring. (Source: JPDPO, 2009) Another issue that needs to be resolved concerns security in a time when terrorism is on the rise. It is hard to dissociate free flight from autonomy, meaning, the pilots can operate on their own without directly communicating with ground controllers. If ever there are terrorists on board they will have the luxury of time and freedom of movement and delaying detection by the aviation authorities from below.

Autonomy could also mean that pilots can be isolated from others and if there is a security threat in the area it is possible that pilots may never know as they are fully focused on their planes and not mindful of the rest. The solution that will be outlined below will attempt to address not only technological challenges inherent in free flight systems but also on how to make it safe by allowing pilots to have access to information pertaining to the overall picture of the flight from the time they depart, when they are en route to their destination and finally when on their final approach before landing.

Moreover, there are other factors that must be considered in designing a free flight system. In a post- 9/11 world Americans are well aware of the folly of isolation. This means that the FAA, airline executives and managers of international airports must work together in conjunction with other government agencies especially when it comes to ensuring airline safety. Thus, there are government agencies like the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) that is tasked to initiate strategic changes in the United States especially when it comes to transportation.

According to their official website, the JPDO is the central organization that coordinates the specialized efforts of the Department of Transportation, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, FAA, NASA, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (JPDO, 2009). The JPDO is in the midst of developing the next generation air transportation system because of obvious problems that the agency was able to succinctly describe in the following statement: By 2025 U. S. air traffic will increase dramatically, two to three times and that the traditional air traffic control system will never be able to manage this growth (JPDO, 2009).

The JPDO is ready to develop technology and new protocols that will combine not only highly efficient equipment but also to enable pilots to have access to data needed for a safe pilot such as weather conditions and information concerning emergencies and other problems that may be waiting for them in the next airport. Possible Solutions One solution is to agree on a compromise between free flight and the use of humans as in air traffic controllers.

According to experts, “Even though pilots would be responsible for maintaining separation and awareness of immediate traffic, ATCos would still be required to oversee separation assurance, intervene under emergency conditions (failure of on-board traffic awareness systems), and monitor the transition of flights to managed airspace” (Metzger & Parasuraman, 2001). This makes sense and there is no reason why this proposal could not be accepted at least in the interim wherein free flight systems are still far from being perfect. Conclusion

There is no need to elaborate as to the need for a more sophisticated and highly efficient air traffic management system. The first concern is linked to the ever increasing volume of air traffic brought upon by globalization and increase in trade between highly industrialized countries and emerging economies. In the next few decades the world will see a sudden rise in the number of congested airports and also the inherent dangers associated when pilots jockey for position in the hopes of landing their aircraft in the shortest time possible.

The pilots are not only anxious to land their aircraft safety but expediently, airline companies are also concern about the unnecessary wastage not only in fuel but time and money spent on maintaining their aircraft as well as the level of customer satisfaction that can be affected every time an airplane is delayed from landing to take-off. Aside from reducing expenses a faster way to land aircraft will also increase safety as it will significantly reduce the number of airplanes encircling above the city. Free flight is one of the obvious answers to this dilemma.

It was already made clear as to the limitations faced by air traffic controllers. They are using antiquated equipment that can only see in two dimensions while they are dealing with realities that occur in three dimensions. The pilots are in a better position to decide for themselves because they are not worried about other aircraft they are solely focused on their own plane, whereas the air traffic controller who is in-charge of all the airplanes entering his area of responsibility. But again it is not going to be that simple.

If air traffic controllers are taken out of the equation then pilots will have to rely on technology to guide them. On one hand technology is the best guide because it is not prone to human error as compared to the highly unreliable auditory messages coming from air traffic controls (see Figure 1). On the other hand the technology is not yet perfect and when there is an emergency or when there is foul weather a pilot can be easily disoriented and again in need of air traffic controllers. Air traffic controllers are also aware of other factors and other information that may not be available to pilots.

This is easy to understand because air traffic controllers are in their turn and they know if there is, say, a military facility or ongoing military training in the area. They are also aware of the limitations of their radar equipment as well as the volume of air traffic in the area. These information can be very helpful in cases of emergencies. Therefore the possible solution is to create a system where pilots can transition from the old system of traffic management to those that involved free flight.

But a system must be in place where air traffic controllers can easily assert control especially if there are unforeseen problems that may hamper the pilot’s ability to control the plane. References Cummings, M. L. & S. Guerlain. (2007). Developing Operator Capacity Estimates for Supervisory Control of Autonomous Vehicles. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 49(1): 1-15. Durso, F. et al. (2004). The Use of Flight Progress Strips While Working Live Traffic: Frequencies, Importance, and Perceived Benefits. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 46(1): 32-49. Erev, I. , G. Barron, & R.

Remington. (2004). Right of Way in the Sky: Two Problems in Aircraft Self-Separation and the Auction-Bases Solution. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 46(2): 267-276. Joint Planning and Development Office. (2009). “A New Paradigm for the 21st Century. JPDO. Retrieved 21 January 2009 from http://www. jpdo. gov/ Knecht, W. (2008). Testing a Multidimensional Nonveridical Aircraft Collision Avoidance System. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 50(4): 565-575. Leslie, J. (1996). “Free Flight: The Solution to Antiquated Air Traffic Control Systems. ” Retrieved 20 January 2009 from http://www.

wired. com/ wired/archive/4. 04/es. faa. html Metzger, U. & R. Parasuraman. (2005). Automation in Future Air Traffic Management: Effects of Decision Aid Reliability on Controller Performance and Mental Workload. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 47(1): 35-49. Metzger, U. & R. Parasuraman. (2001). The Role of Air Traffic Controller in Future Air Traffic Management: An Empirical Study of Active Control versus Passive Monitoring. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 43(4): 519-528. Remington, R. et al. (2000). Visual Search in Complex Displays: Factors Affecting

Conflict Detection by Air Traffic Controllers. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 42(3): 349-366. Thomas, L. & C. Wickens. (2008). Display Dimensionality and Conflict Geometry Effects on Maneuver Preferences for Resolving In-Flight Conflict. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 50(4): 576-588. Wickens, C. et al. (2003). Attention Models of Multitask Pilot Performance Using Advanced Display Technology. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 45(3): 360- 380. Wickens, C. , J. Helleberg, & X. Xu. (2002). Pilot Maneuver Choice and Workload in Free Flight. Sage Publications. Human Factors. 44(2): 171-188.


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