I was watching a program on the Discovery channel about Air Traffic Control. Basically they were talking about what the future holds in terms of new technology to make things easier.
One of the things they talked about was that a plane has sophisticated equipment and ATC centres has millions of pounds worth of equipment, yet the communication between pilot and ATC is still through voice circuit boards.
The program highlighted the problems in talking to ATC, i.e. language, busy lines etc.
Well a solution has been found. I cant remember what it is called (STARS i think?) but it has had a successful trial in the New Zealand area.
Basically if a pilot is cruising at say, 35000ft, and would like clearance to 37000ft, he would enter this request into his Flight Management Computer. He then clicks Send and it is transmitted to ATC. On the ATC controllers screen the request appears. The controller can then send a reply which is picked up by the FMS on board the aircraft. The pilot can then click a button on the FMS and see what he requested (i.e. transition to 37000ft) and the reply.
I thought this was very interesting as it would reduce the amount of talking on radio. Also there would be less chance of mistakes as you have it in writing! They said this trial was successful and they even showed it in action. I guess its only a matter of time before its implemented on a wider scale.
Another new piece of technology will be the removal of ILS transmitters at airports. There will be a single antennae at the airport which can handle ILS for ALL runways. It does not need to be at the end of the runway. It is also more precise and will allow planes to land safely in 0 visibility.
Another new piece of technology (this may already be in operation at some airports/airlines) is a screen onboard the aircraft where you can see the taxi ways and the position of all other airplanes. What this will mean is that a plane can taxi in 0 visibility as they can see where they are and where the planes around them are.
The program was called Air Traffic Control and it was shown on the Discovery Channel about a week ago here in the UK. If you live in the UK check it out. Discovery usually repeat programs. If you live elsewhere i dont know if it will be shown in your region.
Sorry i cant remember what these new technologies are called. The program came on about a week ago. What i found most amazing was that they had WORKING versions of the above technologies which they demonstrated. These are not ideas on paper or speculation. They are being tested now and will one day appear at an airport near you!