Alternative surveillance technology for the Gulf of Mexico
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Alternative surveillance technology for the Gulf of Mexico

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    • NTL Classification:
      NTL-AVIATION-AVIATION ; NTL-AVIATION-Aviation Safety/Airworthiness ; NTL-SAFETY AND SECURITY-Aviation Safety/Airworthiness ; NTL-SAFETY AND SECURITY-SAFETY AND SECURITY ;
    • Abstract:
      In the Gulf of Mexico, there are two major operating aviation users: low altitude offshore and high altitude. The low altitude offshore operators are primarily helicopter fleets supporting the oil and gas exploration efforts; their traffic typically consists of 5,000 to 6,000 flights per day, most under one hour in duration. In the high altitude regime, over 300 oceanic flights pass through the Gulf of Mexico. Offshore surveillance coverage in the Gulf of Mexico is currently limited due to remote, over-water operations. Implementation of primary or secondary radar to support surveillance coverage in the Gulf of Mexico is technically and economically difficult. Air traffic between the United States and destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America has grown at a rate of over 8% per year over the last 12 years. Currently, flights that transit the Central Gulf of Mexico are subjected to oceanic separation standards in part because of a lack of direct pilot-controller communications, standardized aircraft navigation requirements, and limitations to radar surveillance. Air traffic traversing the Gulf of Mexico often must choose between accepting a ground delay, a re-route, or a less fuel-efficient altitude. An estimated 40% of the traffic in the non-radar airspace may not receive their requested altitude or route. However, if seamless surveillance and communication coverage were implemented in the Gulf of Mexico, aircraft separation standards may be reduced from the current oceanic standards to domestic EnRoute standards, thus reducing delays and improving aircraft safety.
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