BARTON AERODROME LANDS UK AIR TRAFFIC FIRST
Barton Aerodrome, 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 - on the position of aircraft flying around the skies in the north west.
The system, known as a ‘Flight Information Display’ or ‘FID’ looks similar in appearance to a Radar screen used at large airports, however unlike Radar which uses radio waves to detect aircraft, the FID 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 far greater situational awareness and to be able to warn pilots of other aircraft and airspace.
A project to prove this technology in the highly regulated and safety critical Air Traffic environment has been running for over six years and was project managed by Steve Hutt under the governance of Airspace4All funded by the CAA’s Future Airspace Strategy Facilitation Fund. This work led to the CAA publishing a new policy permitting use of FIDs by Air Traffic units.
Nick Duriez and Steve Cooper - both with extensive experience as Flight Information Service Officers (FISO) at Barton - developed the solution at the aerodrome; this involved creation and approval of a Trial Safety Case and Plan, staff training and documentation of the procedures integrating with existing ways or working; followed by a four year operational trial to gather evidence to prove to the regulator that the system worked, was safe and enhanced flight safety, with the entire FISO team at Barton submitting regular feedback. It was only after this comprehensive trial period and the new CAA policy being announced, that the CAA issued Barton the first approval to use a FID at an airfield this month.
The team continued their work, again under the stewardship of Steve Hutt and his company Custom Chess Company Ltd to create FID templated documentation as a shared resource for all airfields, again approved and funded by the CAA . Barton Aerodrome, supported by Nick Duriez, former Aerodrome Manager at Barton, then adapted these templates for use in the finalised submissions to the CAA by Barton Aerodrome to gain regulatory approval.
Speaking about 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”.
Commenting on the approval 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”.
Steve Cooper said “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”.
Liam Chadbond, Aerodrome Manager at Barton added “I have worked with the FID from its conception at Barton throughout the trial, experiencing first hand the benefits it can bring to an airfield, with reduced workload for the FISO from the enhanced situational awareness it provides. Pilots already have easy access to ADS-B derived information ‘in cockpit’, so it is an important development that now allows that benefit to extend to our FISOs, providing overall enhanced visibility and safety in a busy traffic environment.”
A full technical report on the trial can be found at https://airspace4all.org/reports/report-on-airspace4all-ga-airfield-ats-ads-b-traffic-display-trial/
Details of the uAvonix equipment can be found at https://uavionix.com/products/pingstation-3/