Nepal | April 06, 2020

Next generation equipment: For safer skies

Bikal Jha

If a country cannot provide good roads and other basic facilities for ground transport they simply cannot blame the drivers or vehicles for any accidents. It’s similar in the aviation sector

Airplane copyAviation is a multibillion dollar industry and in Nepal we are still struggling for an acceptable level of safety just because of insufficient investment for it. Why can’t we adopt the next generation equipment in Nepal? Why CAAN [Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal] is merely concentrating on airline safety instead of ATS (Air Traffic Service) safety? From a recent crash of Tara Air it is clear that only Airline safety cannot be sufficient for safer skies. Tara Air was awarded as a safe airline by IATA one month before the crash. The Nepalese aviation industry is still in a recovery mode after many years of economic and safety malaise. As this scenario is trying to focus better, CAAN is pretty hazy with an array of options, considerations, and routes to comply with an acceptable safety for airlines in Nepal.

Instead of blaming airlines for any non-compliance or an accident it’s time to change or adopt some new technology for surveillance. In the 21st century there are many ways to monitor aircraft in any part of the country but in Nepal we are still lacking in such basic infrastructure of ATS. All identified stakeholders in Nepalese Aviation should come together to implement the next generation equipment for a safe sky as early as possible. As ICAO has mandated some of the next gen. equipment like an Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) from 2020, why do we need to wait till the last minute. The provision for implementing this should be stronger, tighter protocols should be adapted as 2020 may seem quite longer. The integrity is not about tighter regulations in terms of aviation, it’s about lives.

The ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organisation] provides time to implement any significant changes because there might be thousands of aircraft in some country but Nepal does not even have hundreds of aircraft in her airspace. Rapid implementation of these systems is highly advisable rather than waiting for accidents to happen again, knowing the complexities, especially landscape and geography. Moreover, these types of implementation will definitely help Nepalese Aviation to come out of the European Union (EU) Travel Advisor so-called black list.

ADS-B is a radically new technology redefining the paradigm of Communication-Navigation- Surveillance in Air Traffic Management today. Already proven and certified with a viable low cost replacement for conventional radar, ADS-B allows pilots and air traffic controllers to “see” and control aircraft with more precision, over a far larger percentage of earth’s surface, than before.

Effective Air Traffic Management requires that controllers always know where aircraft are. For more than three decades radar systems are being used only in a few airports, which is not effective for safe skies in countries like Nepal. Especially in hilly areas, airports are not equipped with basic equipment. It’s the regulator’s and operator’s responsibility to make pilots feel safer in the sky. These new technologies are helpful and can be used in all types of airports. One of them is ADS-B Link Augmentation system (ALAS).

Capstone Research (FAA implemented and studied effectiveness of ADS-B IN Alaska) solidifies the safety benefit of ADS-B. Alaska depends on aviation the same as we do. Moreover they do have similar terrain and weather. The accident rate before the implementation of ADS-B was average, which was one fatality every nine day which is also more or less similar to Nepal. The implementation of ADS-B fatality rate dropped by 47%. Thereafter ADS-B Technology has provided enhanced situational awareness needed to meet the future safety demand. Far different from radar, which works by bouncing radio waves from fixed terrestrial antennas off airborne targets and then interpreting the reflected signals, ADS-B uses conventional Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology and a relatively simple broadcast communication link as its fundamental components. Also, unlike radar, ADS-B accuracy does not seriously degrade with range, atmospheric condition, or target altitude and update intervals do not depend on rotational speed or reliability of mechanical antennas.

The ADS-B capable aircraft uses an ordinary GNSS (GPS, Galileo,etc) receiver to derive its precise position from GNSS constellation, and then combines that position with any number of aircraft discretise such as speed, altitude etc. This ADS-B equipped aircraft will broadcast their GNSS positions every second. The information received by air traffic controllers and other ADS-B aircraft includes the projected path, altitude, speed, velocity and other useful information. ADS-B Data will be received by dedicated ground receivers, which will be immediately passed onto the controllers’ screen at the nearest air traffic control centre.

Adopting the next generation equipment in a country like Nepal will benefit all aviation stakeholders. The government should adopt the next gen instruments. If a country cannot provide good roads and other basic facilities for ground transport they simply cannot blame the drivers or vehicles for any accidents or untoward incidents. It’s pretty much similar in the aviation sector; the country should be accountable to provide updated infrastructure along with enhanced next gen equipment which would make flying safer and comfortable for both pilots and passengers.

Jha is an aviation safety instructor in Oman with Master’s in Aviation Management.

A version of this article appears in print on March 14, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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