Mission Aviation Fellowship

City Airport Manchester pioneers FID system

Manchester Barton Aerodrome in Greater Manchester has become the first airfield in the UK to gain approval from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for a new low cost safety system which provides real-time information to air traffic staff, working in the UK’s oldest operational control tower.

The system, known as a Flight Information Display (FID), looks similar in appearance to a radar screen used at large airports, but uses a low cost receiver aerial, from avionics manufacturer uAvionix, mounted on the control tower roof to receive data transmitted from aircraft providing their position twice a second using a system called automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast (ADS-B). This data is then plotted on a map of the airspace around the airfield allowing the air traffic team to have increased situational awareness and to be able to warn pilots of other aircraft and airspace.

The project has taken six years to complete and is the brainchild of aviation consultant Steve Hutt who operated under the governance of Airspace4All funded by the CAA’s Future Airspace Strategy Facilitation Fund. Key to the project was the development of a new CAA policy permitting the use of FIDs by Air Traffic Units.

Barton Flight Information Service Officers (FISO) Nick Duriez and Steve Cooper developed the programme for Barton, including creating a Trial Safety Case and Plan which went on to provide four years of data, with the Barton FISO team providing regular feedback to the CAA. Following this extended trial period and subsequent introduction of new policy, last month the CAA finally issued Barton with the UK’s first approval to use a FID at an airfield.

Part of the project has included the creation of a FID template, to be available as a shared resource for all airfields. The template was created by the Barton team, again under the stewardship of Steve Hutt and his company Custom Chess Company Ltd, and was approved and funded by the CAA.

Commenting on the project, Steve Hutt said: “This is a true enhancement to flight safety bringing a low cost surveillance solution within  the budget of general aviation airfields using off the shelf hardware and applications which can be easily implemented – I know other airfields are eager to adopt the system. Myself and the team can provide project and technical support as well as training to airfields wishing to implement similar systems, and I look forward to working with them.”

Barton FISO Nick Duriez said: “We’ve gained the first CAA operational approval at Barton for a FID surveillance system that’s not reliant on Radar, it really shows that ADS-B is the way forward and that General Aviation airfields can tap in to the data it provides simply and easily.”

Fellow Barton FISO Steve Cooper added: “This was an exciting project to be involved in and I’m glad many years of dedication have paid off. Barton is a busy aerodrome with a real mix of aircraft types operating from it – ranging from military helicopters to microlights – so this is fantastic addition to our toolset to keep the skies around the aerodrome safe.”

The FID uses uAvionix’s ‘pingStation’ to receive ADS-B position data from aircraft on the ground and flying in the vicinity of the airfield. The concept of a Flight Information Display is a recognition that the use of ADS-B OUT equipped aircraft enables low-cost airspace and aerodrome/airport situational awareness at a cost and scale not previously imagined.

Since ADS-B OUT equipment relies on readily available certified or qualified equipment broadcasting the aircraft’s position from an approved high-integrity position source, the ground-based surveillance and display capability needed to provide situational awareness can be produced at a fraction of the cost of the legacy radar solutions.

Barton’s FID uses a uAvionix pingStation to receive ADS-B position data that is passed to the local FID computer, which displays the traffic situation to the FISO in the tower. For many years, general aviation pilots have had access to technology, such as the uAvionix SkyEcho2, enabling them to receive and display the position of other ADS-B conspicuous aircraft flying nearby to help avoid collisions. The CAA approved FID now provides an equivalent low-cost capability for FISOs and Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) in the airfield tower.

The uAvionix’s pingStation claims a reception range of over 300km, receiving ADS-B position data on both the 1090 MHz and 978 MHz frequencies. According to uAvionix, 978 MHz will become increasingly important in the UK as the CAA roles out Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations for drones, using 978 MHz ADS-B for Electronic Conspicuity in support of detect and avoid (DAA) services.

Image accredited to uAvionics

Author: FTN Editor

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