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readytotaxi
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London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 7:53 am

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-39960993

"London City is to become the first UK airport to replace its air traffic controllers with a remotely operated digital system.
Instead of sitting in a tower overlooking the runway, controllers will be 80 miles away, watching live footage from high-definition cameras."

"The system made its world debut in Sweden at Ornskoldsvik Airport, where flights have been controlled by a remote tower in Sundsvall, 110 miles (177km) away, since 2015."

I like it.
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wezgulf3
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 7:57 am

I'm sure safeguards are in place but it does seem a little crazy to not have a human being in the tower watching what's happening!

I also can't believe that the Unions let slip by?
 
trent900
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 8:04 am

So what happens if a controller needs to look at something through binoculars? It does happen from time to time! Can they zoom in a particular area of the screen?

T.
 
Milka
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 8:05 am

Whilst I do think it's a good step in the direction of better safety, I pity the air traffic controllers who loved their job partially for standing in a tower overlooking the airport and landing planes :(
 
Milka
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 8:06 am

trent900 wrote:
So what happens if a controller needs to look at something through binoculars? It does happen from time to time! Can they zoom in a particular area of the screen?

T.


Yes the article mentions that two cameras will have the ability to tilt, turn and zoom.
 
Bongodog1964
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 8:22 am

I think this is a step too far, only last week we had a major meltdown in our hospitals when their IT systems were hacked, we now see a scheme here that places the point of control more than 100 miles from the airport, thus introducing a point of weakness that doesn't need to be there.

I can fully understand that the digital control tower has huge advantages over the Mk1 eyeball, particularly in its ability to zoom, and to overlay information onto the visuals, but why move it 100 miles away ?
Surely it would be far better to have the electronic control room directly below the existing one, that way if there is ever an electronics failure, the staff just have to walk up a set of stairs and work a little less efficiently than normal.
 
LupineChemist
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 9:34 am

Bongodog1964 wrote:
I think this is a step too far, only last week we had a major meltdown in our hospitals when their IT systems were hacked, we now see a scheme here that places the point of control more than 100 miles from the airport, thus introducing a point of weakness that doesn't need to be there.

I can fully understand that the digital control tower has huge advantages over the Mk1 eyeball, particularly in its ability to zoom, and to overlay information onto the visuals, but why move it 100 miles away ?
Surely it would be far better to have the electronic control room directly below the existing one, that way if there is ever an electronics failure, the staff just have to walk up a set of stairs and work a little less efficiently than normal.



Honestly, you have to look at the impact of failure and it's just not that big of a deal if LCY has to shut down for awhile compared to a hospital.

Yes, it's inconvenient and loses money but it's not that hard to calculate risk/benefit on a purely financial basis and if they can't operate safely, they can just stop operations.
 
b747400erf
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 9:38 am

I hope they run fibre for a direct secure connection.
 
kanye
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 10:31 am

There is some interesting videos on YouTube about it.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Gqv8EECMXJM
 
Bongodog1964
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 11:07 am

LupineChemist wrote:
Bongodog1964 wrote:
I think this is a step too far, only last week we had a major meltdown in our hospitals when their IT systems were hacked, we now see a scheme here that places the point of control more than 100 miles from the airport, thus introducing a point of weakness that doesn't need to be there.

I can fully understand that the digital control tower has huge advantages over the Mk1 eyeball, particularly in its ability to zoom, and to overlay information onto the visuals, but why move it 100 miles away ?
Surely it would be far better to have the electronic control room directly below the existing one, that way if there is ever an electronics failure, the staff just have to walk up a set of stairs and work a little less efficiently than normal.



Honestly, you have to look at the impact of failure and it's just not that big of a deal if LCY has to shut down for awhile compared to a hospital.

Yes, it's inconvenient and loses money but it's not that hard to calculate risk/benefit on a purely financial basis and if they can't operate safely, they can just stop operations.


The problem is that the consequences of loss of ATC is way beyond inconvenience and loss of money. Why add a risk factor that does not need to be there. As to "just stop operations" thats very difficult once planes are in the air.
 
smokeybandit
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 11:11 am

So what happens during a power outage? A network outage?
 
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SomebodyInTLS
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 11:12 am

LupineChemist wrote:
Bongodog1964 wrote:
I think this is a step too far, only last week we had a major meltdown in our hospitals when their IT systems were hacked, we now see a scheme here that places the point of control more than 100 miles from the airport, thus introducing a point of weakness that doesn't need to be there.

I can fully understand that the digital control tower has huge advantages over the Mk1 eyeball, particularly in its ability to zoom, and to overlay information onto the visuals, but why move it 100 miles away ?
Surely it would be far better to have the electronic control room directly below the existing one, that way if there is ever an electronics failure, the staff just have to walk up a set of stairs and work a little less efficiently than normal.



Honestly, you have to look at the impact of failure and it's just not that big of a deal if LCY has to shut down for awhile compared to a hospital.

Yes, it's inconvenient and loses money but it's not that hard to calculate risk/benefit on a purely financial basis and if they can't operate safely, they can just stop operations.


Also they have three independently routed, isolated, encrypted connections between tower and control room. That's a lot of redundancy. They didn't mention what happens in the event of equipment failure of tower or control room, but I imagine they have backups of those as well - probably two sets of cameras and servers/routers and a second control room.
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kruiseri
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 11:21 am

Bongodog1964 wrote:
LupineChemist wrote:
Bongodog1964 wrote:
I think this is a step too far, only last week we had a major meltdown in our hospitals when their IT systems were hacked, we now see a scheme here that places the point of control more than 100 miles from the airport, thus introducing a point of weakness that doesn't need to be there.

I can fully understand that the digital control tower has huge advantages over the Mk1 eyeball, particularly in its ability to zoom, and to overlay information onto the visuals, but why move it 100 miles away ?
Surely it would be far better to have the electronic control room directly below the existing one, that way if there is ever an electronics failure, the staff just have to walk up a set of stairs and work a little less efficiently than normal.



Honestly, you have to look at the impact of failure and it's just not that big of a deal if LCY has to shut down for awhile compared to a hospital.

Yes, it's inconvenient and loses money but it's not that hard to calculate risk/benefit on a purely financial basis and if they can't operate safely, they can just stop operations.


The problem is that the consequences of loss of ATC is way beyond inconvenience and loss of money. Why add a risk factor that does not need to be there. As to "just stop operations" thats very difficult once planes are in the air.



No it's not really. Once you stop operations the planes divert. Loss of money and inconvenience, sure. Risk factor, no.

The upside is, that you can have cost effective regional airports that are :
    Less expensive to build
    Les expensive to maintain
    Less expensive to staff
    More interesting for the controllers

With the above said, I am not sure that LCY is the right place to meet the criteria. I think that the best suited airport for this type of thing is the remote regional airport that has 1-5 flights a day. You can then provide ATC only when really needed. One controller can effectively provide ATC to half a dozen separate airports instead of sitting 8 hours in a single tower to provide services for a single fligth.
 
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atcsundevil
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 11:31 am

Remote Tower operations are currently being tested in the United States as well. This is simply the future of ATC in the terminal environment. I think we're a long way off from something like this being implemented at larger airports, but this makes sense at smaller and particularly at more remote facilities.
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r2rho
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 12:01 pm

I know this system, and it was intended to reduce costs for controlling remote airports handling a handful of flights a day, as is the case in many places in Scandinavia. You do not need to locate controllers in far away places with extreme climatic conditions, and you can even control several airports from one center, as the low number of flights per airport means there are rarely two happening simultaneously.

But this is the first time I see it applied to a fairly good sized commercial airport, and I do not see the cost advantage in using this. LCY is not an airport in the arctic circle handling 2 turboprop flights a day...
 
skipness1E
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 12:28 pm

This is a very busy and very particular and demanding piece of airspace. Seems a very strange place to pilot this.
Btw what happens if NATS and LCY part company. LCY can't outsource a control tower they don't have. Is this NATS power playing to keep the money rolling in? GIP owned EDI and LGW have both left NATS and given ATC out to third parties recently. Same owner as LCY.
 
Thenoflyzone
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 12:44 pm

readytotaxi wrote:
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-39960993

"London City is to become the first UK airport to replace its air traffic controllers with a remotely operated digital system.


the air traffic controllers wont be replaced. The same people who control the airport now will control the airport from 80 miles away, from the Swanwick control center, in Hamsphire.

Bongodog1964 wrote:
I think this is a step too far, only last week we had a major meltdown in our hospitals when their IT systems were hacked, we now see a scheme here that places the point of control more than 100 miles from the airport


Air traffic control centers (not towers) are sometimes in the most remote locations thinkable. These hacking issues haven't impacted the control centers. Why would they impact a camera pole in London-City, which will be connected to the same network ?

Bottom line, the control center at Swanwick handles more traffic in a day than what London city does in a month. If these hacking issues affected ATC you would know it already, as it would paralyze huge chunks of airspace.

Bongodog1964 wrote:
but why move it 100 miles away ?


Because that is where the NATS control center is, in Swanwick, where virtually all aircraft movements over southern England is controlled from. You save on operational costs of maintaining secondary air traffic control towers, when the same service can be provided remotely.
Last edited by Thenoflyzone on Fri May 19, 2017 12:55 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 12:50 pm

As a layer of redundancy I expect a basic ATC setup would be left in place at LCY for emergencies. If there was a catastrophic failure, flights could divert or be held until warm bodies could get into this basic tower setup and provide a temporary service.

It's also going to be useful for staff recruitment as controllers working the LCY tower won't need a huge commute every day or be forced into the inflated London property market. NATS staff at LHR often commute on internal flights every day for just that reason. I used to sit next to LHR tower staff on the BD shuttles regularly.
 
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 12:52 pm

Heathrow tower ATC have a daily commute? Are you sure? Not the ones I've come across. They are home counties based.
 
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cosyr
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 12:55 pm

This, in the country that legally has to have a physical sign to supplement a digital sign as a back up, by law.
 
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 1:03 pm

cosyr wrote:
This, in the country that legally has to have a physical sign to supplement a digital sign as a back up, by law.

I've never heard of this law before.

The railways got rid of old signal boxes and have been controlled from central locations many moons ago. If a remote outstation goes down then it could easily be regarded as a field with no control and treated as such.

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Thenoflyzone
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 1:04 pm

r2rho wrote:
I know this system, and it was intended to reduce costs for controlling remote airports handling a handful of flights a day, as is the case in many places in Scandinavia. You do not need to locate controllers in far away places with extreme climatic conditions, and you can even control several airports from one center, as the low number of flights per airport means there are rarely two happening simultaneously.

But this is the first time I see it applied to a fairly good sized commercial airport, and I do not see the cost advantage in using this. LCY is not an airport in the arctic circle handling 2 turboprop flights a day...


LCY is the busiest airport they are trying this system on. Pretty interesting stuff indeed. A sign of things to come I guess.

LCY handles as much passenger traffic as YOW, YWG or YHZ here in Canada. Now that NATS and Nav Canada are partnering up on Searidge technologies, I would expect this technology to make its debut in Canada as well.

http://www.nats.aero/news/nats-makes-ma ... ecialists/
us Air Traffic Controllers have a good record, we haven't left one up there yet !!
 
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 1:13 pm

kruiseri wrote:
Bongodog1964 wrote:
LupineChemist wrote:


Honestly, you have to look at the impact of failure and it's just not that big of a deal if LCY has to shut down for awhile compared to a hospital.

Yes, it's inconvenient and loses money but it's not that hard to calculate risk/benefit on a purely financial basis and if they can't operate safely, they can just stop operations.


The problem is that the consequences of loss of ATC is way beyond inconvenience and loss of money. Why add a risk factor that does not need to be there. As to "just stop operations" thats very difficult once planes are in the air.



No it's not really. Once you stop operations the planes divert. Loss of money and inconvenience, sure. Risk factor, no.

The upside is, that you can have cost effective regional airports that are :
    Less expensive to build
    Les expensive to maintain
    Less expensive to staff
    More interesting for the controllers

With the above said, I am not sure that LCY is the right place to meet the criteria. I think that the best suited airport for this type of thing is the remote regional airport that has 1-5 flights a day. You can then provide ATC only when really needed. One controller can effectively provide ATC to half a dozen separate airports instead of sitting 8 hours in a single tower to provide services for a single fligth.


I fully agree with you. A remote tower could do just that and that's where it makes sense. In fact it could even efficiently introduce ATC to an airport with commercial service, yet has zero ATC/FSS facilities.

I can't see how at any airport with say over 100 movements per day, such as LCY, does this type of arrangement a) make any sense in terms of improving safety or b) save any money if you need the same number of ATCers on duty to handle the same number of aircraft.

Thenoflyzone wrote:
r2rho wrote:
I know this system, and it was intended to reduce costs for controlling remote airports handling a handful of flights a day, as is the case in many places in Scandinavia. You do not need to locate controllers in far away places with extreme climatic conditions, and you can even control several airports from one center, as the low number of flights per airport means there are rarely two happening simultaneously.

But this is the first time I see it applied to a fairly good sized commercial airport, and I do not see the cost advantage in using this. LCY is not an airport in the arctic circle handling 2 turboprop flights a day...


LCY is the busiest airport they are trying this system on. Pretty interesting stuff indeed. A sign of things to come I guess.

LCY handles as much passenger traffic as YOW, YWG or YHZ here in Canada. Now that NATS and Nav Canada are partnering up on Searidge technologies, I would expect this technology to make its debut in Canada as well.

http://www.nats.aero/news/nats-makes-ma ... ecialists/


YOW and YWG are in the 150,000-170,000 movements per year range, while YHZ is in the 120,000 range. LCY is 85,000 or slightly more than half of YOW or YWG. Even if pax numbers at all 4 airports are in the 4-5 million range, they really are irrelevant when talking about the job ATC does (i.e. aircraft movements). Even still 85,000 is an awful lot for this to be implemented.
 
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 2:10 pm

There's really no reason not to do it at LCY. Yes there are a lot of movements, but there's one runway and effectively no taxiways -- there's a turnaround and a few short taxiways into the apron, but no parallel/full length taxiways. The current tower could be replaced by a ramp controller to manage the apron at a much lower salary. If that were the case, the airport could probably be operated remotely by a single local controller (assuming there's a ramp control, there would be no need for a ground controller). It's busy, but it's pretty basic. If there were crossing runways, for example, things would be far more complicated, but clearly that's not the case with LCY.
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flymia
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 2:59 pm

The only thing I don't like is the actual controllers being place 80-miles away. Looking at the video, it seems like this could improve safety though. But just seems odd to be doing that time of work in a chair looking a video screens, I feel like the tower controllers would prefer being there live.

As for some type of failure, this is a one-runway airport and there is still approach control, the pilots are more than capable to be led into approach and land and takeoff without ATC like GA pilots and airline pilots do all over the world every day in smaller airports.
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kruiseri
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 4:26 pm

flymia wrote:
The only thing I don't like is the actual controllers being place 80-miles away. Looking at the video, it seems like this could improve safety though. But just seems odd to be doing that time of work in a chair looking a video screens, I feel like the tower controllers would prefer being there live.


But that is the whole point of this technology.

You establish a remote tower facility someplace cheap, staff it with 2-4 controller stations that can handle like 20 different regional airports.
 
skipness1E
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 4:46 pm

Don't you have to validate for an aerodrome one at a time?
 
32andBelow
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 4:48 pm

kruiseri wrote:
Bongodog1964 wrote:
LupineChemist wrote:


Honestly, you have to look at the impact of failure and it's just not that big of a deal if LCY has to shut down for awhile compared to a hospital.

Yes, it's inconvenient and loses money but it's not that hard to calculate risk/benefit on a purely financial basis and if they can't operate safely, they can just stop operations.


The problem is that the consequences of loss of ATC is way beyond inconvenience and loss of money. Why add a risk factor that does not need to be there. As to "just stop operations" thats very difficult once planes are in the air.



No it's not really. Once you stop operations the planes divert. Loss of money and inconvenience, sure. Risk factor, no.

The upside is, that you can have cost effective regional airports that are :
    Less expensive to build
    Les expensive to maintain
    Less expensive to staff
    More interesting for the controllers

With the above said, I am not sure that LCY is the right place to meet the criteria. I think that the best suited airport for this type of thing is the remote regional airport that has 1-5 flights a day. You can then provide ATC only when really needed. One controller can effectively provide ATC to half a dozen separate airports instead of sitting 8 hours in a single tower to provide services for a single fligth.

You don't need tower at an airport with 1-5 operations a day.
 
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 4:58 pm

kruiseri wrote:
flymia wrote:
The only thing I don't like is the actual controllers being place 80-miles away. Looking at the video, it seems like this could improve safety though. But just seems odd to be doing that time of work in a chair looking a video screens, I feel like the tower controllers would prefer being there live.


But that is the whole point of this technology.

You establish a remote tower facility someplace cheap, staff it with 2-4 controller stations that can handle like 20 different regional airports.


The idea that one controller would be handling tower functions for multiple airports is very problematic from an operational standpoint, and should not happen.
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OA940
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 5:12 pm

This may sound bad, but I seriously can't wait for an accident that will set them in place. This is such a dumb idea...
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Thenoflyzone
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 5:46 pm

Dominion301 wrote:

YOW and YWG are in the 150,000-170,000 movements per year range, while YHZ is in the 120,000 range. LCY is 85,000 or slightly more than half of YOW or YWG. Even if pax numbers at all 4 airports are in the 4-5 million range, they really are irrelevant when talking about the job ATC does (i.e. aircraft movements). Even still 85,000 is an awful lot for this to be implemented.


YHZ handles around 85,000 movements, not 120,000.
There is virtually no VFR activity at YHZ.
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flymia
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 6:32 pm

OA940 wrote:
This may sound bad, but I seriously can't wait for an accident that will set them in place. This is such a dumb idea...

Did you watch the video to see how the system works? It would likely prevent accidents, assuming its staffed at the same level and you don't have guys switching between airports.
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Dominion301
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 8:37 pm

Thenoflyzone wrote:
Dominion301 wrote:

YOW and YWG are in the 150,000-170,000 movements per year range, while YHZ is in the 120,000 range. LCY is 85,000 or slightly more than half of YOW or YWG. Even if pax numbers at all 4 airports are in the 4-5 million range, they really are irrelevant when talking about the job ATC does (i.e. aircraft movements). Even still 85,000 is an awful lot for this to be implemented.


YHZ handles around 85,000 movements, not 120,000.
There is virtually no VFR activity at YHZ.


Weird, I edited that post to say YHZ was just under 85k in 2016. YOW was 154k and YWG was 116k as per Stats Can. YOW gets a lot of VFR thanks to 2 flight schools and the fact GA runway 04/22 is almost it's own airfield.
 
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 9:16 pm

kruiseri wrote:
But that is the whole point of this technology.

You establish a remote tower facility someplace cheap, staff it with 2-4 controller stations that can handle like 20 different regional airports.

That's not the idea, at least not as it's been proposed in the US. The idea is to centrally locate equipment and staff to reduce costs, but that's basically it. Ultimately you'd have roughly the same number of controllers each working their respective airports, but without the management and upkeep of the individual facilities. There would also be savings from redundancies in tech ops, not to mention the reduced travel time between facilities to manage/repair equipment. You'd contract for fewer security guards, janitors, and other support staff.

The only crossover I could see occurring between facilities is among supervisory/staff support roles. Supervisors, ops managers, facility managers, QA, airspace and procedures, etc. could serve multiple facilities.

The savings primarily comes from facility upkeep and ancillary redundancies. There would never be an expectation for controllers to check out on dozens of airports. Perhaps a couple, but absolutely not 20. The safety risks posed by the expectation for controllers to proficiently operate a large number of facilities would be enormous. Even small facilities can take 4-8 months to get fully checked out, so the training time alone wouldn't make sense
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 9:28 pm

OA940 wrote:
This may sound bad, but I seriously can't wait for an accident that will set them in place. This is such a dumb idea...

It's actually better in a lot of ways than a manned tower at the facility. If there weren't numerous advantages from a safety and operational standpoint, the idea would have never left conceptual stages.

Small VFR towers operate in the US with extremely limited equipment due to funding limitations. Some basically only have windows and computers. The addition of cameras to cover multiple angles (perhaps even some unseen by current towers, as towers very often have blind spots), along with the potential for coverage with radar and/or ASDE-X (and in the next few years in the US, ADS-B), means that controllers at a remote facility could very likely have a more complete picture of any given situation. It will also save money allowing for investment in other areas.

Except at larger facilities or those with complex operations, there just isn't justification for them to be personally manned when the technology exists to provide more viable alternatives. Furthermore, at least in the US, it could eventually reduce the FAA's dependence on the Contract Tower Program.
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 9:50 pm

32andBelow wrote:
kruiseri wrote:
Bongodog1964 wrote:

The problem is that the consequences of loss of ATC is way beyond inconvenience and loss of money. Why add a risk factor that does not need to be there. As to "just stop operations" thats very difficult once planes are in the air.



No it's not really. Once you stop operations the planes divert. Loss of money and inconvenience, sure. Risk factor, no.

The upside is, that you can have cost effective regional airports that are :
    Less expensive to build
    Les expensive to maintain
    Less expensive to staff
    More interesting for the controllers

With the above said, I am not sure that LCY is the right place to meet the criteria. I think that the best suited airport for this type of thing is the remote regional airport that has 1-5 flights a day. You can then provide ATC only when really needed. One controller can effectively provide ATC to half a dozen separate airports instead of sitting 8 hours in a single tower to provide services for a single fligth.

You don't need tower at an airport with 1-5 operations a day.


Exactly. It might as well become an "uncontrolled" field.

Thousands of airports in the US alone neither have a control tower, nor have a problem with incursions. Monitor and self-announce on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF), and practice see-and-avoid when conditions permit.

A large number of uncontrolled airports even have published instrument approach procedures.
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OA940
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Fri May 19, 2017 10:12 pm

flymia wrote:
OA940 wrote:
This may sound bad, but I seriously can't wait for an accident that will set them in place. This is such a dumb idea...

Did you watch the video to see how the system works? It would likely prevent accidents, assuming its staffed at the same level and you don't have guys switching between airports.


atcsundevil wrote:
OA940 wrote:
This may sound bad, but I seriously can't wait for an accident that will set them in place. This is such a dumb idea...

It's actually better in a lot of ways than a manned tower at the facility. If there weren't numerous advantages from a safety and operational standpoint, the idea would have never left conceptual stages.

Small VFR towers operate in the US with extremely limited equipment due to funding limitations. Some basically only have windows and computers. The addition of cameras to cover multiple angles (perhaps even some unseen by current towers, as towers very often have blind spots), along with the potential for coverage with radar and/or ASDE-X (and in the next few years in the US, ADS-B), means that controllers at a remote facility could very likely have a more complete picture of any given situation. It will also save money allowing for investment in other areas.

Except at larger facilities or those with complex operations, there just isn't justification for them to be personally manned when the technology exists to provide more viable alternatives. Furthermore, at least in the US, it could eventually reduce the FAA's dependence on the Contract Tower Program.


There is the problem that pixels bring though. And what if there is a circuit problem, or a blackout?
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Sat May 20, 2017 12:41 am

atcsundevil wrote:
OA940 wrote:
This may sound bad, but I seriously can't wait for an accident that will set them in place. This is such a dumb idea...

It's actually better in a lot of ways than a manned tower at the facility. If there weren't numerous advantages from a safety and operational standpoint, the idea would have never left conceptual stages.

Small VFR towers operate in the US with extremely limited equipment due to funding limitations. Some basically only have windows and computers. The addition of cameras to cover multiple angles (perhaps even some unseen by current towers, as towers very often have blind spots), along with the potential for coverage with radar and/or ASDE-X (and in the next few years in the US, ADS-B), means that controllers at a remote facility could very likely have a more complete picture of any given situation. It will also save money allowing for investment in other areas.

Except at larger facilities or those with complex operations, there just isn't justification for them to be personally manned when the technology exists to provide more viable alternatives. Furthermore, at least in the US, it could eventually reduce the FAA's dependence on the Contract Tower Program.


I attended a presentation by Rheinmetall on this technology. As you say, current camera technology gives a much better view than a tower. I forgot the details but they stated that they could detect a tiny toy drone about 5 km away.

They also stated that this technology is mature and more common for military applications. It is also being used the extend the view of a towers at large airports so that you don't have to build multiple towers and avoid coordination between the towers.

I can see why LCY is a candidate for this technology. Departing traffic in LCY gets close to landing traffic in LHR. Ground operations in LCY are relatively simple while the coordination with LHR is critical.
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Sat May 20, 2017 1:18 am

IMO, just places an additional and unneeded layer between the aircraft being controlled and the controllers.
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Sat May 20, 2017 3:44 am

OA940 wrote:
There is the problem that pixels bring though. And what if there is a circuit problem, or a blackout?

There are always redundancies, and with multiple components typically involved (cameras, radar, ground surveillance), it would be highly unlikely that more than one component would fail. If the cameras fail, then it's no different from being in IMC, and ground surveillance/radar picks up the slack. If ground surveillance fails, you've got multiple cameras to simultaneously monitor the entire airfield. If radar goes down, it won't matter much to a tower controller anyway.

If in some rare circumstance that multiple components fail, then the airfield simply reverts to a Class E (uncontrolled with common frequency) or a ground stop is imposed. Dozens of US airports with commercial service have towers on limited operations and revert to Class E, and they all manage just fine. While it would be hugely inconvenient to an airport like LCY if it were to happen during a morning rush for example, airplanes would hardly fall out of the sky. The basis for training for any pilot or controller is handling irregular situations -- pilots and ATC don't make the big bucks to work bright, sunshiny days. When things fail, the system adapts in a way that won't compromise safety. That principle is ingrained in aviation, and a Remote Tower is no different.

Redundancies and worst case procedures all exist for a reason, and given the reliability the equipment is capable of achieving after testing, it should hardly preclude implementation of this technology. To a certain degree, it actually provides enhanced safety through better visual aids, increased training, and closer oversight. In the US at least, it is only currently being proposed for small VFR towers, many of which already function as uncontrolled airports outside of operational hours. The FAA has already been testing it at Leesburg Airport (JYO), the next round of which will continue in just a couple of weeks. It's the future whether some people are ready for it or not.
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Sat May 20, 2017 7:32 am

atcsundevil wrote:
OA940 wrote:
There is the problem that pixels bring though. And what if there is a circuit problem, or a blackout?

There are always redundancies, and with multiple components typically involved (cameras, radar, ground surveillance), it would be highly unlikely that more than one component would fail. If the cameras fail, then it's no different from being in IMC, and ground surveillance/radar picks up the slack. If ground surveillance fails, you've got multiple cameras to simultaneously monitor the entire airfield. If radar goes down, it won't matter much to a tower controller anyway.

If in some rare circumstance that multiple components fail, then the airfield simply reverts to a Class E (uncontrolled with common frequency) or a ground stop is imposed. Dozens of US airports with commercial service have towers on limited operations and revert to Class E, and they all manage just fine. While it would be hugely inconvenient to an airport like LCY if it were to happen during a morning rush for example, airplanes would hardly fall out of the sky. The basis for training for any pilot or controller is handling irregular situations -- pilots and ATC don't make the big bucks to work bright, sunshiny days. When things fail, the system adapts in a way that won't compromise safety. That principle is ingrained in aviation, and a Remote Tower is no different.

Redundancies and worst case procedures all exist for a reason, and given the reliability the equipment is capable of achieving after testing, it should hardly preclude implementation of this technology. To a certain degree, it actually provides enhanced safety through better visual aids, increased training, and closer oversight. In the US at least, it is only currently being proposed for small VFR towers, many of which already function as uncontrolled airports outside of operational hours. The FAA has already been testing it at Leesburg Airport (JYO), the next round of which will continue in just a couple of weeks. It's the future whether some people are ready for it or not.


Still, IMO it places an unnecessary barrier between humans and it is more risky.
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Sat May 20, 2017 9:00 am

OA940 wrote:
Still, IMO it places an unnecessary barrier between humans and it is more risky.


But not only should the redundancies be covered, there will be new advantages. The BBC video I saw showed that the system will actively place markers on the screen - meaning you can identify any moving aircraft without taking your eye off the "view" and even "see" incoming and outgoing traffic which is still miles out. It can also automatically track and zoom in on other flying objects such as drones.

It's like fly-by-wire - there will always be an initial mistrust, but the advantages are many and the risks should have been minimised to the point where it's safer with the technology than without it. Pilot projects like this are needed to prove it works and isn't risky - then it will be adopted all over the place and seen as completely normal.
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MeanGreen
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Re: London City Airport going to a digital tower by 2019

Sat May 20, 2017 9:41 am

This is dangerous. Tower controllers aren't center controllers. Tower controllers work planes much closer together and physically being there is important. You can't get depth perception from a camera and all of the pieces of equipment listed above help supplement the job but can't solely do the job on their own.

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