NAV Canada

Aeron, NAV Canada share industry award for satellite tracking

A British Airways Airbus A380 lands at Vancouver International Airport in June (photo: Brett Ballah).

More planes flew over the North Atlantic in the summer of 2019 than ever before, but their flight path has never been smoother, thanks to new satellite tracking in its first summer of trials, say controllers in Canada and the United Kingdom.

The result, said Aeron, was that controllers had to re-route 3,400 fewer flights in the busy summer season, despite handling 2,400 more flights than last year. Some 4,400 more planes were allowed to fly at their planned altitude and speed, saving of about 37,000 flight hours over 2018.

The satellite tracking was activated in the spring in both Canada and the United Kingdom, allowing better tracking of planes across the ocean, where ground-based radar facilities can’t reach. NAV Canada and U.K.-based NATS began using the system in April, promising aircraft more direct routings at their chose altitudes.

They, along with Aeron, will receive an Industry Award from the Air Traffic Control Association for their work.



Called ADS-B, the satellite tracking allows planes to report their positions every few seconds, compared to the previous procedure of pilots reporting their position every 14 minutes, giving controllers a clearer picture of the location of every plane.

“Based on the immediate benefits we’re seeing for NATS and NAV CANADA in the North Atlantic, it is clear that space-based ADS-B it is a powerful tool for innovation,” said Aireon Chief Executive Officer Don Thoma in a statement. “Deployment in the North Atlantic has set the standard for how Aireon and our customers operationalize space-based ADS-B, and we look forward to scaling it across the ATM industry.”

Estimates suggest up to 90% of flights across the North Atlantic Ocean will be able to fly their preferred flight route, compared with the current rate of just 60 percent, and eight out of every ten flights will be eligible to fly without any speed restrictions. 

“These improvements not only reflect improved customer efficiency,” said NAV Canada President and Chief Executive Officer Neil Wilson, “but also provide a corresponding reduction in the risk of altitude deviation or Gross Navigation Error from flight crews who may inadvertently follow their flight plan and not their ATC clearance.”

“As the first system deployment of its kind, we are pleased to honor Aireon, NAV Canada and NATS for the recent deployment of space-based ADS-B technology in the North Atlantic,” said Peter F. Dumont, President and CEO of ATCA. “We congratulate them for their achievement in advancing the science, safety, and efficiency of air traffic control.”

The award will be presented October 22 at a luncheon in Washington, D.C.

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