EU Agency Finalizing Aircraft Identification Rule

Air Navigation Service Providers will have to use downlinked aircraft identification for at least half of the flights in the core area of Europe starting in 2012.

Brussels, Belgium-based EUROCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, is working on a new European-wide regulation that will improve aircraft identification and assist air traffic controllers. Aircraft identification can be a problema for controllers because transponder codes used in identifying aircraft are a scarce resource, but the problem is being addressed through this and a second, related rule now going through formal adoption, according to the agency.

The Surveillance Performance and Interoperability (SPI) implementing rule specifies the requirements for the European Air Traffic Management Network and how new surveillance technologies and applications will be introduced to Europe's Air Traffic Management system. The aircraft identification rule will require air navigation service providers (ANSPs) to use downlinked aircraft identification for identifying aircraft, without having to rely solely on Secondary Surveillance Radar codes. Only 4,096 of these four-digit codes are available. "As there are up to 33,000 flights per day in Europe, two aircraft with the same code could be flying at the same time in the same area. This has been a problem that has been growing more pressing over time and necessitated this Europe-wide regulation," EUROCONTROL reported Aug 25.

ANSPs will have to apply the new rule from 2012 for at least half of the flights in the core area of Europe. Beginning in January 2020, the rule will be applied throughout the Single European Sky. "In practical terms, this means that at least one layer of Mode A/C radars will have to be replaced by other ways of acquiring and processing downlinked aircraft identification: Mode S, ADS-B or Multilateration. One of the possible -- and most cost-effective -- means of compliance for the [identification] implementing rule is a system called the Centralised Code Assignment and Management System (CCAMS) which will run under a central server operated by the Network Manager (NM). In fact, controlling this system will form part of the NM's duty to manage transponder codes, as stipulated in the Network Manager Implementing Rule," the agency explained.

The identification regulation was developed after a thorough impact assessment and in-depth discussion with ANSPs; both regulations were written in cooperation with stakeholders and under EASA's safety oversight. "We are delighted at the Single Sky Committee's acceptance of both these rules. The SPI one was the most challenging, but [the identification rule] is a product that will prove to be a workable solution to a real problem and has already met with a gratifyingly high level of acceptance," said Luc Tytgat, EUROCONTROL's Single Sky director.

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