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JIS News

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has received and is installing a new, state-of-the-art Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunications Network (AFTN) switch, which will be commissioned into service this month.
The switch, which includes a modern pilot briefing system and an aircraft billing system, is expected to enhance the country’s air traffic services, enabling the CAA to accurately capture revenue from airplanes that traverse the island’s air space.
Deputy Director General of the CAA, Col. Oscar Darby, told JIS News that the implementation of the system, “which mainly facilitates communication between the aircraft and the ground,” met the August deadline, as projected in the aviation sector report tabled during the 2006/2007 Sectoral Debates.
“Implementation started in August. We have the switch installed in large part,” he said.
He explained that there are two components of the system that needs to be installed – the component for aeronautical information service, which ensures that notices to airmen are transmitted or circulated on a timely basis, and the aeronautical information publication (AIP) component, “which ensures that changes within the airspace are inserted in the said publication (AIP), which is sent to all states worldwide for the use of airmen making flight plans to come to Jamaica.”
He noted that completion of the installation as well as training in the maintenance of the switch, which is being conducted by the supplier, Ubitech Systems Inc., “is anticipated for the end of October, after which the switch will be commissioned and should be fully up and running.”
The AFTN, which was acquired at a cost of US$807, 504, is one of the most advanced air traffic and aeronautical service systems in the world, putting Jamaica among the ranks of first world countries, and a leader in the Caribbean with this technology.
“The switch will allow us to communicate not only with the aircraft in flight, but also with adjoining airspaces, or flight information regions, and to transmit messages through a global central sorting point that goes out to anywhere in the world that we wish flight plan messages to be sent,” Col. Darby explained, “so, if a country does not have it, that service would have to be provided by a third party state, and usually at quite a significant cost.”
He pointed out further that “if you don’t have a switch, then you won’t be able to communicate with the aircraft other than by air-to-ground radio” and this process does not allow communication once the airplane is over the horizon.
According to Col. Darby, the new messaging system, which replaces the old and less reliable analogue switch, “will ensure sustained operation for the long-term in terms of accuracy, with the additional features that it carries, in billing aircraft that traverse air space.” He said that hundreds of messages are sent daily and the service, which is charge per message, is calculated in United States dollars, enhancing the country’s ability to earn revenue.
The acquisition of the switch is part of ongoing efforts to provide modern, reliable air navigation equipment and services and professional flight safety oversight services, is in keeping with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Air Traffic Management implementation strategy.
Some US$494,000 has been budgeted for the upgrading of all radar systems software and monitors to continue the provision of efficient air navigation services.
“We have gone through some amount of upgrading and maintenance on our radar sites, and changing out some components, which have come to the end of their lives or their usefulness,” Col. Darby noted.
According to the aviation sector report, plans are also in place for the construction of two modern stand-alone air traffic towers at Norman Manley and Sangster International airports at a cost of US$18 million.
The report also indicated that the CAA will continue the study of new navigation systems being introduced worldwide and prepare for an audit by the IACO under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme in October 2007.
Preparations for the audit will include the implementation of safety management systems for aerodromes, air traffic services and international commercial air operators.