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RTCA Spring Digest 2023

March 21, 2023
Home / News / RTCA Spring Digest 2023

RTCA Hosts Second Successful AAM Workshop

RTCA recently hosted its second Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Workshop, focusing on avionics, concept of operations (conops), and spectrum. More than 100 members were in attendance to hear from regulators and manufacturers, focusing on advancing technology and the development of certification pathways to ensure safe and sustainable transportation in urban areas.

FAA Chief Scientist Steve Bradford told attendees that the FAA wanted “NextGen” to become the status quo of the future in aviation. He said new airborne and environmentally friendly vehicles are emerging and that traffic management services will be developed to coexist with traditional air traffic.

Flight Standards AAM Integration Lead John Posey (FAA) talked about the importance of the office of Flight Standards Service within the FAA, where operational certification and coordination of AAM integration into the National Airspace System (NAS) is conducted. Posey noted that airworthiness criteria for two companies was already underway to support the initial integration of AAM into the NAS. Read More

RTCA Special Committee Recap for February 2023

Feb 2 – SC-214, Standards for Air Traffic Data Communications Services (w/EUROCAE WG-78), hosted by Collins Aerospace, met in Melbourne, Fl. They continued updates to revisions on DO-350B, DO-351B, DO-352B, and DO-353B, scheduled for publication later this year.  The next meeting will be held virtually, March 17, to determine entering Final Review and Comment/Open Consultation.

Feb 6 & 10 – SC-227, Standards for Navigation Performance (w/EUROCAE WG-85), met in joint plenary and working sessions in Fort Worth, Texas hosted by American Airlines. The joint group is getting close to updating the MOPS for RNP, DO-283C. Working Group 3 of SC-227 continues its working to add digital derived charts to DO-257.


Feb 14-15 – SC-238, Counter UAS (w/EUROCAE WG-115), met in joint plenary hosted by EUROCAE in St Denis, France. They continued work on their SPR and INTEROP documents scheduled for publication in late 2023.

More Special Committee Round Ups


Standards Oversight Committee Acts on Emerging Technologies and Safety Oversight

RTCA’s Program Management Committee (PMC) held its Spring meeting and reviewed and approved administrative changes for three Special Committee (SC) Terms of References (TORs), received updates on important SC activities, and discussed several significant topics.

Chaired by Dr. Chris Hegarty of The MITRE Corporation, the 21-member PMC is the RTCA oversight body charged with producing timely and robust standards and guidance documents to ensure interoperability of aviation systems and equipment. The standards encourage innovation and serve as the basis for meeting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. An important responsibility of the PMC is ensuring the operational application of the technical standards.

Key areas and issues discussed:

  • Three administrative TOR changes concerned leadership changes.
  • SC-214 – Standards for Air Traffic Data Communication Services provided an update on two documents – one needing an out of cycle approval shortly after the June PMC meeting and one concerning tagging of requirements formatting.
  • SC-239 – Low Range Radar Altimeter leadership provided a status update on their interim document as a step toward the radar altimeter MOPS.  They also presented highlights of their  timeline review for the MOPS.
  • SC-242 – Spectrum Compatibility provided an update on their first deliverable and requested assistance in collecting data from the other SCs to support the effort.
  • The PMC discussed a potential plan for document review for relevancy and currency. Additionally there was dialogue on a way forward for SC-240 – Topics on Software Advancement as well as the Forum for Aeronautical Software.
  • Also, The PMC discussed ongoing AAM Workshops, Forum on Digital Flight Operations activities, International Coordination, SC Chair reports, and potential format availability  for document changes.
  • The FAA provided updates on actions on published documents.
  • RTCA provided an overview of the recent organizational bylaws as pertaining to the PMC.
  • The PMC reviewed and approved the list of award nominations for Outstanding Leaders and Significant Contributors for documents published in 2022.

The next PMC meeting is scheduled for June 22, 2023.


Join RTCA & others for a discussion on how the different operational modes affect design, avionics choices, approvals and certifications in AAM, & challenges going from design to operational approval, timelines & barriers: Wednesday, March 22, 1pm.

Upcoming Spring Training

DO-254, Design Assurance Guidance for Airborne Electronic HardwareApril 3-6
DO-160G, Environmental TestingApril 17-20
DO-178C, Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification April 17-20
Supplements to DO-178CApril 21

Terry McVenes Provides RTCA Perspective to Helicopter Association International Webinar Audience

On February 9, Helicopter Association International (HAI) featured RTCA President and CEO Terry McVenes in an interactive webinar entitled Digital Flight Operations for UAM.  McVenes presented RTCA’s view as the industry looks to the future needs of the transportation ecosystem, taking into account new and emerging technologies in AAM that require a fresh look at standards to ensure the safety of the NAS.  UAM integration will also require continued cooperation between ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), FAA Technical Standards Orders (TSOs), Aviation Rule Making Committees (ARCs), NASA, the private sector, and legacy aviation, said McVenes.

Among the benefits these new technologies can provide involve safety benefits for all aircraft operations, including the legacy side of aviation; the potential to end common accident causes such as loss of control and controlled flight into terrain (CFIT); fuel management improvements; infrastructure additions, particularly to existing airports; and security and economic benefits.

McVenes believes, as we continue down this path, participants need to focus on both vehicle capability and vehicle integration challenges and what increased commoditization of airspace, coupled with an increasing number of users, will mean, namely the necessity of creating differing rules to access airspace.  In addition, it is important to take a look at scalability concerns and delve into cloud clearance and visibility requirements based on aircraft capabilities. McVenes also spoke on the gap RTCA is exploring between VFR and IFR.  In this realm, he cautioned against taking long periods of time to get meaningful work accomplished, believing we need to get the industry to coalesce around a common set of principles and ideas to help bring new capabilities in the NAS quicker and more efficiently.  Without a long-term vision, near-term parochial interests will result in conflicts, said McVenes, while the benefits of proceeding with a cohesive, forward-thinking vision include enabling technologies and capabilities such as high-quality navigation, upgraded digital NAS information, accurate digital autopilots, increased intent sharing, enhanced detect and avoid, facilitated cooperative operating practices, and approved safety-critical third-party service providers.

McVenes called for action to provide industry endorsement of Digital Flight Operations (DFO) concepts and feedback to FAA and NASA, industry briefs from NASA, FAA, R&D, and industry proponents, and, for RTCA, a Forum for Digital Flight Operations ahead of the release of a future white paper for the industry and regulators. Following Terry’s presentation, HAI’s Director of Public Relations and Communications, Dan Sweet, opened the floor for questions.  McVenes and Sweet covered topics including predictions on possible retrofits to existing aircraft, how best to collaborate to develop harmonized international standards, and 5G challenges and the allocation of future aviation spectrum.

For more information on HAI, visit rotor.org.  If you missed this webinar or would like to view others, visit rotor.org/webinar.  HAI holds webinars on the second and fourth Thursdays at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Successful Inaugural AAM Workshop Outlines Current, Mid- and Long-Term Horizon Needs

On the inauspicious morning of FAA’s system outage halting U.S. departures, more than 50 aviation professionals were gathered in Washington, DC to create some good news for the aviation ecosystem:  RTCA’s first-ever Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Workshop.  Participants joined working groups in the morning and prepared the following report-outs to the entire assembled group in the afternoon:

Flight Operations—Heidi Williams of NBAA National Business Aviation Association noted that it is critical to have the FAA and a wide range of players in the room as standards and digital flight rules are developed to outline what cooperation looks like and utilize data in a robust discussion of vehicle-to-vehicle operations.  The group looked at separation standards, weather detection and avoidance, ATC ConOps concerns, vertiport standards, spectrum issues, enhanced/hybrid air traffic services, and qualifications of pilots and operators.  The group recognized the work of SC-206:  Aeronautical Information and Meteorological Data Link Services, as it relates to flight operations.

Lift/Thrust—Mark Blackwell of SkyDrive, Inc. presented the discussions for his group.  They called for clearer definitions of lift/thrust, having RTCA fill in the gaps not covered by other standards, identifying AAM aspects not addressed by current fixed wing or rotorcraft standards, and studying the impact of bird strikes on lift/thrust units.

Safety & Security—Tom Ferrell of Joby Aviation presented the groups concerns with creating and modifying standards for uncrewed operations.  They suggested educating third parties to get Congressional, traditional industry, and public buy-in.  Ferrell urged the group to optimize what is already in existence and to coordinate standards to look towards system, operational, and product safety, interoperability, high-density operations, and current safety and security standards as they relate to AAM use cases.  The group suggested the creation of white papers and outreach to publications as early as possible.

Avionics—Tom Pack of ACR Group Electronics discussed updating current standards and making modifications for ConOps and operating environments.  The group sees great innovations and the ability to be flexible as addendums to MOPS can be created.  In the near-term through 2030, they suggested the implementation of modifications, to study database commonalities, and creating detect and avoid capabilities. In the far term, they noted the concern with spectrum, interoperability, the use of multiple systems between manufacturers, mixed fleet operators, and information exchange between systems.  In the end, this group suggested the creation of a white paper on avionics, a future workshop on ConOps, and taking a look at existing bandwidth and spectrum requirements.

Concept of Operations—Ben Ivers of The Boeing Company said we should look at piloted and uncrewed eVTOL that utilize traditional air traffic services now through approximately 2026.  In the mid-term through 2030, we should look at higher density operations, remotely piloted AAM, vertiports and other infrastructure, and enhanced/hybrid air traffic services.  Beyond 2030, we may be dealing with fully digital air traffic services, fully autonomous vehicles, and very high density AAM operations.  The group felt the need to consolidate ConOps by examining air traffic controller needs, developing an accepted glossary of terms, and holding further discussions on pilot rating and training.

Ground Operations and Infrastructure—Chris Oswald of ACI-NAAirports Council International – North America said his group assessed the areas where standards may be needed.  The group considered how AAM operations will fit into existing commercial service airports, including final approach and take-off areas, taxiway standards, AAM vehicle parking, passenger facilities, maintenance facilities, connectivity to existing infrastructure, physical security, weather sensors, and air traffic/vertiport surveillance capabilities.  To integrate AAM, the group said airspace operations,  obstruction management, refueling and charging, passenger loading and unloading, cargo handling, ground staff handling requirements, security screening, rescue and firefighting, and noise and environmental concerns all need to be looked at.  Like others, this group also suggested that this topic is ripe for a white paper.

At the conclusion of the workshop, RTCA President Terry McVenes praised the work of participants and promised after-actions that include analyzing who should be included in further talks and reaching out to engage others.  Moving forward, says McVenes, “this workshop will become part of an ongoing conversation and series of additional workshops as the industry takes ideas brought forth to heart and improves processes.”  RTCA would like to thank all participants.

RTCA Premieres 23rd Webinar: A Chat with Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen

On Wednesday, January 18, Terry McVenes stepped away from the ICAO meeting he was attending in Montreal to host a wide-ranging discussion with Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen.

Terry began the hourlong Webinar by asking Billy’s opinion on advancements in 5G and evolving technologies that arrive to market quickly.  Billy said he is thinking ahead to the advent of 6G and acknowledged the rapid expansion of technology often comes in half the time the industry has traditionally had to react to technological advances.  He also noted that as the one millionth drone has been licensed, they are preparing for 2.5 million drone operators in the not-too-distant future.  In addition, as eVTOLS are coming online at a rapid pace, FAA has already started asking what regulatory framework will be needed and how they will integrate into the NAS.  When Terry asked how the FAA sees the frequency set aside for aviation being affected down the line, Billy recommended engaging with affected parties early and often, as the industry has begun doing by working in collaboration with telecom companies.  “Across the government, we’ve made great progress, thanks in no small part to RTCA, as we find ways to hash out our differences,” said Billy.  “5G and commercial aviation can successfully coexist, and we’ve seen our telecom colleagues join with us every step of the way.”

Terry then delved into new radar altimeter MOPS and the contrast between that and older VOR technologies.  Billy said he looks at the National Airspace in three parts:  legacy, space-based navigation, and what is to come beyond visual line-of-sight.  He credited RTCA again for having been a critical component of NextGen and being on the forefront of new standards.  He went on to say the industry now needs to look at what is no longer necessary in the complex U.S. airspace, proceeding with caution when dismantling older technology, but moving forward to free up critical resources.

Coming off the successful AAM Workshop RTCA held the week before, Terry geared the discussion toward accelerating the safe integration of AAM.  “I can’t imagine a more exciting time to be a part of this industry,” said Billy.  “We’re looking at a purposeful and driven approach.”  This will include three parts:  certifying the aircraft itself, regulating the operation, and safely integrating AAM.  Success will require looking at the entirety of the ecosystem and working with partners across the globe, as well as the U.S. Congress who are being asked for consistent, stable funding.  Moving forward, Billy said, FAA will continue to work with groups like RTCA and seek to be predictive in modeling, leveraging automation and artificial intelligence to help in the process.  Progressing forward, the industry will seek to maintain the same stellar record of safety the aviation industry has earned.  “We will never sacrifice safety for technology,” said Billy.

Terry asked how new technology can raise the safety bar across the system for general aviation and Billy said he seen the benefits of the safety management system and the collaborative partnership the industry has enjoyed, which should be expanded to more stakeholders, including universities and the military.

Billy also spoke of taking a global approach to leverage best practices.  While the U.S. has the most complex NAS, the journey of continuous improvement means bringing others to an ever-expanding table, said Billy.  Terry echoed this approach, recognizing the burgeoning number of international participants within RTCA.  “Innovations require us to think beyond our needs to the whole system,” said Billy.  “We need to ask ourselves, how transportable is this?  And make sure we don’t leave anyone behind with emerging technologies.”  Terry pointed to the 193 member states comprising ICAO and the importance of ensuring everyone is given the tools they need as we look at the industry through a worldwide perspective.  Billy agreed, saying we could leverage strengths to continue to drive down the global fatality risk.

The two also discussed environmental concerns and how to balance them with the impact aviation has on our global economy.  The goal, said Billy, is to move to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, understanding this will be a heavy lift.

Finally, Terry and Billy tackled the topic of workforce development and meeting the future needs of the industry.  Billy believes that looking for a diversity of opinions and ideas is important, as is finding innovative ways to reach new, younger audiences.  He pointed to the FAA’s recent success in reaching air traffic controller candidates through social media and outreach to gamers, which yielded 60,000 applicants for 1,500 jobs.  Terry and Billy talked about workforce development with universities and attracting a large workforce for all positions, from pilots, mechanics, and engineers to business operations associates, graphic designers, attorneys, and accountants.

If you missed this interesting discussion live, you can find the webinar here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzySqyClYDA .

For more information about the Digest, please contact:
Name: Ka'Nika Evans
Email: kevans@rtca.org

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