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Bryan Matthews Receives Unsolicited "Thank You" From the FAA

Andrew Mueller, of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Safety Operations Oversight Division (AOV), on behalf of their Oceanic Monitoring Team, sent an unsolicited message of thanks for Bryan Matthews’s (KBR/Wyle) “tireless effort” in collaborating with the team and uncovering “at least one possible deviation event that appears was never reported, exposing a potential safety incident that was previously undetected. Bryan’s work helped AOV better understand the ability to use data analytics to investigate and understand other unreported deviations in the oceanic [FIRs - Flight Information Regions].”

Working with a database of reported deviation events, and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) tracks, Bryan helped AOV visualize deviations in a variety of unique representations, such as conventional latitude versus longitude, time versus altitude, and time versus turn angle. The FAA has an agreement with a vendor that curates global Spaced-Based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (SBA) data and has allowed NASA to access this portal. Bryan was able to use the web portal to query and download data that contains both known events and flights that have not been previously flagged. He has been working with a former oceanic air traffic controller to develop a pattern recognition algorithm to detect lateral deviation based on the airspace rules and analyzed the data using this method.

Recently the algorithm flagged an unexpected holding pattern that resulted in a loss of separation conflict with another aircraft on the same route. Additional work was done to search through Aviation Safety Reporting System documents based on the fix/waypoint where this incident occurred and a report that matched the description of this incident was found, giving more context to the situation. However, this incident was not included in the annual reported events and therefore points to the need for a tool to automatically detect these events in surveillance data to properly assess separation risk in this region. Bryan was able to produce a customized animation utilizing the data with annotations and real-time calculations of separation between the two aircraft to illustrate the event. This animation was presented by the FAA team to their management with extremely positive feedback and has highlighted this valuable collaboration between NASA and the FAA, which will continue this year.

BACKGROUND: The AOV is part of a working group focused on quantifying airspace risks due to lateral and vertical deviation occurrences in the North Atlantic Flight Information Regions (FIRs). They assess events annually and compile them into a set of vetted oceanic deviation reports. Their work is targeted at improving safety oversight of commercial air traffic services in this region. A key focus of this effort is to employ data analytics to identify possible deficiencies in monitoring required communications and surveillance system performance; and identifying and reporting events in the oceanic FIRs where aircraft deviated from their assigned routing.

Currently, these risk models are derived from reported incidences by air traffic controllers. However, due to the proportionally smaller number of occurrences reported by New York oceanic FIR as compared to its international FIR counterparts in the North Atlantic, it is expected there may be a significant number of under-reported events in current operations. As such, the FAA would like to SBA data to automatically detect lateral and vertical deviations within operations to determine if there is in fact a higher number of events compared to what is currently reported. Having a more accurate occurrence rate can significantly change the risk assessment and therefore impact any proposed reduced separation standards over oceanic operations.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: System Wide Safety (SWS) project, Airspace Operations and Safety Program (AOSP), Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD)


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