Tags: Air | Travel | Facing | Radio | Gridlock

Air Travel Facing Radio Gridlock

Monday, 13 November 2000 12:00 AM

Radio-frequency gridlock, capable of radically delaying or even paralyzing American air travel, is fast moving from a theoretical concern to a very real nightmare.

According to a story in the Sunday issue of the Washington Post:

Anthony J. Broderick, former Federal Aviation Administration associate administrator for regulation and certification, puts it bluntly.

"It is impossible to overstate the seriousness of this problem," Broderick says. "By 2005, it is absolutely clear you'll have gridlock, and it may come several years earlier."

Here's why radio, considered the life blood of aviation control, is in such dire straits:

• Available frequencies in the finite radio spectrum are now close to being saturated.

• There are not enough available frequencies in the spectrum to accommodate expected growth in the aviation industry.

• Each major airport must have dozens of separate frequencies.

• Individual radio channels are required for air traffic controllers to communicate with pilots while they are at the gate, moving on the ground, taking off and landing.

• Radar controllers need dozens of frequencies as they line up planes for landing or give them directions after takeoff.

• Twenty major en route centers also must have dozens of channels to guide planes through higher altitudes.

• Automated weather reporting stations, so critical to aviation safety, consume dozens of other channels.

• All the numerous navigation aids, such as an instrument-landing system, need their own separate channels.

• So do fire and rescue personnel.

• Contributing to the problem is a constant tug of war among airlines, the FAA and other users of radio frequencies, here in the United States and around the globe.

• One of the major issues they are squabbling over is, should the United States opt for a relatively quick-relief fix that will last but a few years? Or should it spend up to a dozen additional years to engineer a different solution that will last longer but leave aviation in radio-frequency chaos before it can be put in place?

• The down side of either option is that it is no permanent or even really long-range answer.

• The years of quibbling have now eaten up most of the time left to lash together even a makeshift resolution of the problems.

"We have a far greater crunch than most people are aware," says Bill Stine, director of international operations for the National Business Aviation Association and head of an FAA advisory committee that has been looking into the problem since 1991.

Nor is this entirely aviation's dilemma. Demand for radio frequencies – for all manner of uses by a rapidly increasing variety of users, commercial and personal – is outstripping supply, especially as the latest wireless communications flood the marketplace.

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Radio-frequency gridlock, capable of radically delaying or even paralyzing American air travel, is fast moving from a theoretical concern to a very real nightmare. According to a story in the Sunday issue of the Washington Post: Anthony J. Broderick, former Federal...
Air,Travel,Facing,Radio,Gridlock
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2000-00-13
Monday, 13 November 2000 12:00 AM
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