he International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) Advisory Group in 2017 published a combined 27 areas of improvement criteria across aircraft systems, air traffic services (ATS) and search and rescue (SAR) system operations. These improvement criteria are designed to inform the global aviation industry and all of its various segments about ICAO’s latest available information about progress toward establishing GADSS, a concept of operations adopted by ICAO through collaboration with some of the world’s top avionics engineers, civil aviation regulators, air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and other aviation stakeholders.
The main objective of GADSS is to achieve alignment of these stakeholders to prevent any future disappearance of aircraft from available surveillance — such as what occurred with the Malaysia Airlines MH370 incident in which a Boeing 777-200ER disappeared March 8, 2014 while flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, to China’s Beijing Capital International Airport.
Is it an Avionics Mandate?
First and foremost, ICAO does not establish and enforce flight information region (FIR) aircraft equipage requirements. This is a function of the ANSP or the civil aviation regulator, or a combination of the two within a given airspace, such as the FAA in the U.S., NATS and the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK, Airservices Australia and Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) of Australia, or Italy’s ENAV.
Stephen Creamer, director of ICAO’s air navigation bureau, explained it to Avionics in February 2016. Often in mainstream or other non-Avionics coverage, readers searching for information about GADSS will often see a reference to ICAO’s mandated equipage for “aircraft tracking” or other erroneous references to what GADSS is and what ICAO’s actual role is in helping to make it a reality.
What commercial operators need to know is the latest available equipage rules within the civilian airspace FIR in which they’re operating.
A perfect example is the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, which in August 2017 released Advisory Circular AC AOC-38(1), a nine-page document that provides information about standards, practices and procedures acceptable to CAAS as it pertains to aircraft avionics equipage and capability requirements that are mandated by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, not ICAO.
According to section nine of AOC-38(1), the Singapore CAAS requires aircraft weighing more than 45,500 kg, or 27,000 to 45,000 kg with a passenger-seating capacity of more than 19, that the aircraft be tracked “while that aircraft is in flight, in the manner specified in paragraph 30A.2, except where the aeroplane’s position is able to be tracked by an ATS unit that is responsible for providing air traffic service for the aeroplane at the relevant time at least once every 15 minutes.” The circular says that as of Nov. 8, 2018, aircraft-tracking capability should make use of automated reporting and “shall not make use of voice reporting through High Frequency (HF) radio” — a mandate regulated and mandated by CAAS, not ICAO.
Airline Avionics Equipage and ANSPs
Two of the key players within the aviation industry’s ability to establish the concept of operations introduced by ICAO as GADSS are airlines and air charters with large fleets of aircraft capable of flying across long stretches of oceanic airspace and polar regions where existing surveillance is adequate, but not 100% of every inch of available airspace.
Airlines facing equipage mandates in FIRs in which they fly are already in the process of equipping with new hardware to enable compliance with GADSS-aligned regulation required by civil aviation regulators. South African Airways, for example, is working with Satellite Authorization Systems, a Johannesburg-based company that became a provider of aircraft-tracking equipment by chance.
In 2014, SatAuth was in the middle of testing a communications platform capable of doing secure, real-time airborne banking and credit card transactions on South African Airways aircraft. “During our testing phase, MH370 disappeared,” said Paul Roux, managing director at SatAuth. After the MH370 incident, Roux said that his team started evaluating their equipment as a way to provide flight tracking.
“We bolt on an embedded server, fully certified from a DO-160G airborne and radio equipment, as well as EASA certified full usage onboard widebody commercial aircraft. We don’t modify any of the avionics. We have an independent antenna that sits on top of the aircraft, both capacity to look after GPS as well as comms into Iridium, and that is a fully certified installation from an STC perspective,” said Roux.
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(Courtesy of Avionics Magazine)