Earlier this month, more than 3000 air traffic control (ATC) and air traffic management (ATM) leaders came together for ATCA 2017, the largest ATC conference in the Americas, to network and learn about the future of air traffic control. Top tracks for this year’s show included Operational NextGen Improvements, Disruptors and New Entrants and Big Data.

To learn more about some of the big takeaways from this year’s show, Connected Aviation Today spoke with Andrew Onken, Principal Manager, Air Traffic Services at Rockwell Collins. Onken shared his insights with us about the evolving field of air traffic control and where he thinks the technology is headed.

Some of the key themes that Onken noticed at ATCA 2017 were focused on Traffic Flow Management as well as the FAA’s SENSR program that’s aiming to improve surveillance technologies. Elaborating on the advancement of traffic flow management a bit, Onken stated, “Minor adjustments in aircraft flight profiles can affect how traffic arrives at airports. Advanced systems are being implemented that make traffic flow management less of a blunt tool and more of a scalpel, introducing less disruptive change to the system.”

According to the NextGen program site, “NextGen is a comprehensive suite of state-of-the-art technologies and procedures that, in short, enable aircraft to move more directly from Point A to Point B. This helps passengers reach their destinations on time, while reducing fuel burn and lessening our impact on the environment.”

Onken also highlighted the FAA’s interactive video experience on-site that showed attendees the massive NextGen improvements being put into place from the passenger’s point of view, complete with an aircraft chair and tablet for attendees to try for themselves. “The key areas that the FAA has been focused on with these NextGen offerings include automation, enterprise information management, communication, navigation, and surveillance,” said Onken.

Onken noticed that ATCA 2017 was smaller than in years past, but that wasn’t a negative. He explained, “The FAA has been successful in launching the vast majority of the NextGen programs, as we can see from the NextGen experience they were showing on-site.  The show is smaller because NextGen is well underway – and succeeding.”

Some of the most successful NextGen initiatives to date include Wake Recategorization (Wake RECAT), Surface Operations and Data Sharing as well as the PBN framework and Data Comm programs to highlight just a few.

We look forward to seeing what ATCA 2018 brings to light around NextGen improvements and the further implementation of more data-driven programs.

Chelsea Barone

About Chelsea Barone

Chelsea is an editor for Connected Aviation Today, managing the day-to-day editorial activities. Chelsea writes for other federal government and technology industry publications. Her background lies in B2B and enterprise technology, specifically cloud computing, SaaS, travel IT, and mobile devices.