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1090 Global

On Your Six: Interview with Ben Girard, NAV CANADA Assistant Vice President of Operational Support – Program Implementation


Last month we introduced a new blog series, “On Your Six”, where we sit down with aviation industry experts and leadership to gain their thoughts on the industry’s most pressing issues, trends and visions of the future.

For our second “On Your Six”, Aireon connected with Ben Girard, NAV CANADA’s Assistant Vice President of Operational Support, Program Implementation and Space-Based ADS-B. We sat down with Mr. Girard to see how NAV CANADA is preparing for the upcoming implementation of space-based ADS-B.

Aireon 1090 Global: As a founding partner of Aireon, NAV CANADA was quick to commit to the promise and vision of the AireonSM system. What was it that made it immediately so compelling?

We were among the early adopters of ADS-B, which we first used to provide ATS surveillance over Hudson Bay in 2009. So we understand the technology and its possibilities. We are also responsible for a portion of the North Atlantic, the busiest oceanic corridor in the world, so we know the challenges and limitations of managing airspace without surveillance. ATS surveillance coverage through space-based ADS-B will be a global aviation game changer.

Aireon 1090 Global: Many of the benefits of Aireon’s space-based ADS-B will extend beyond the ability to see the location of aircraft anywhere in the world. In order to take advantage of those benefits, both air traffic controllers and pilots will need to understand the new in-flight possibilities of the airspace, particularly oceanic. How is NAV CANADA helping both prepare to take advantage of this new opportunity?

For air traffic controllers, space-based ADS-B is surveillance, no different than other surveillance technology we have had in place for years. Where we have direct communication with pilots over VHF, we will use it just like any other ATS surveillance to provide standard separation.

We are leading the effort within the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to develop new separation standards, the first being a reduced procedural separation to use with Controller-Pilot Data Link Communication (CPDLC). For controllers, this will simply be an additional, better separation standard they can use with CPDLC. This will be assisted by new decision support tools and training. We are also working with other NAT ANSPs to develop a coordinated approach for introducing space-based ADS-B separation in the North Atlantic.

For operators, we have been discussing for some time how they can improve their operational efficiency and predictability once we implement space-based operations. We continue to use every opportunity to provide updates and information so that all stakeholders can be well positioned to realize the benefits from space-based ADS-B.

Aireon 1090 Global: How does the Aireon system expand on the mission of NAV CANADA: “To be a world leader in the provision of safe, efficient and cost effective air navigation services on a sustainable basis while providing a professional and fulfilling work environment for our employees.”?

Our participation in the Aireon joint venture and our work to prepare to use space-based ADS-B in our own airspace addresses multiple elements of our mission. Everyone is excited to be part of this and it’s hard not to be excited about something that’s breakthrough technology, that’s going to change our industry, along with all the possibilities to improve safety and service — not just in Canada, but around the world.

Aireon 1090 Global: How does Aireon fit into the environmental initiatives of NAV CANADA?

Very well, both directly and indirectly. Instead of the challenges and costs of maintaining numerous ground stations in remote areas, each of which needs to be built, maintained and provided with power, the ADS-B sensors are in space. Additionally, the system will enable us to deliver improvements in flight efficiency for our customers and provide even better service in areas currently limited by inefficient procedural rules due to a lack of surveillance.

Aireon 1090 Global: Space-based ADS-B has a range of benefits from efficiency and cost to the environment, which do you find the most exciting to the future of aviation?

For me the most exciting are the safety benefits. Surveillance means we have accurate position data and can see in real time if a flight deviates from its flight path. We have very sophisticated safety nets that use ATS surveillance data to provide alerts and warnings to controllers so they can prevent the unexpected from becoming an unsafe situation. If a flight needs to deviate due to weather or some other reason, we will be in a much better position to provide a clearance to help them, rather than the pilot having to execute a contingency maneuver on their own. And in the event of a tragedy, we will have the best data possible to help search and rescue services by providing position and track data free of charge to help search and rescue organizations, operators and other ANSPs locate lost aircraft.

Aireon 1090 Global: What does NAV CANADA view as the biggest challenge facing the aviation industry today?

Growth. IATA projects global passenger demand to double in the next 20 years. Accommodating that growth while maintaining safety and preserving and enhancing flight efficiency in order to reduce aviation’s impact on the environment remains one of the biggest challenges we face. Space-based ADS-B will help us with that challenge by enabling us to safely increase capacity in our airspace.