China flies with ADS-B In

With air traffic in China steadily growing, efforts to update air-traffic-management systems are vital to maintaining air safety. The path to modernized, networked, NextGen air-traffic communications, aviation infrastructure, and flight and ground operations hinges on satellite-based automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) technology—which could potentially replace radar-based surveillance of air traffic in following years.

Recently, ACSS (an L3 and Thales company) announced the first successful demonstrations of ADS-B In took place China. The live demonstrations were performed on three Airbus A321 narrow-body, twin-engine commercial passenger jet airliners on approach to Shanghai’s Hongqiao International Airport.

The ADS-B In test flight demonstrated the Airbus A321’s ability to receive flight information system-broadcast (FIS-B), traffic information system-broadcast (TIS-B) data, and direct communications from other ADS-B equipped aircraft. This first step accounts for one half of ADS-B communications—the other half being ADS-B Out, where an aircraft transmits information such as its own identification, position, altitude, and velocity.

The demonstrations were in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), Airbus, and Juneyao Airlines—a Shanghai-based commercial and cargo carrier and one of the fastest-growing regional airlines in China.

The Air Traffic Situational Awareness (ATSA) Enhanced Visual Separation on Approach (VSA) ADS-B In application was hosted on a T3CAS integrated surveillance system and seamlessly integrated into cockpit displays on the A321.

The T3CAS is a line-replaceable unit (LRU) developed by ACSS that can host any combination of traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS), terrain awareness warning system (TAWS), and Mode S transponder data with ADS-B In/Out capability. The integration of multiple products into a single four- or six-modular concept unit LRU allows reduced size, weight, wiring requirements, and power consumption—all significant benefits when considering potential impact on other aircraft systems.

The demonstration took place after Juneyao—which had been flying T3CAS systems on their existing fleet—selected Thales to supply avionics suites for its new A320-family fleet. Over the last couple years, the carrier, which operates out of both Hongqiao and Pudong airports, began equipping 17 Airbus single aisle aircraft with Thales' flight-management system (FMS) and the T3CAS platform.

The new fleet also employs a low-range radio altimeter (LRRA), emergency location transmitters (ELTs), performance-based TAWS, and Airbus' Enhanced Air Traffic Surveillance systems.

ADS-B capabilities offer increased safety and efficiency in flight and on the ground, and enable timely compliance with imminent worldwide mandates. The technology enhances operator efficiency, as well as pilot and air-traffic management situational awareness and decision making in all phases of flight. This includes flight-level change performance in non-radar airspace, such as oceanic flights. ADS-B is an automatic broadcast dependent on aircraft satellite navigation systems, and requires no pilot input.

Regarding China’s increasing air traffic, ADS-B ground stations are also cheaper to install and operate than traditional radar systems and their associated redundancies that are currently utilized by air-traffic controllers. Thales has already begun to modernize air-traffic control systems and tower operations at Shanghai airports and is now the largest air-traffic management supplier in China, managing 60% of the country’s air traffic.

Thales has focused in efficient traffic sequencing, reduced airborne holding, and advanced runway allocation processing, which will enable efficient airline operations and reduce taxi times. Beyond China, analysts maintain a projected air-traffic growth rate of 20% over the next 10 years for the entirety of the Asia-Pacific region. Others are forecasting even higher numbers. As more and more Chinese operators transition to ADS-B, it is likely that other operators across the region will follow suit.

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