May 10, 2017

Following years of collaboration between the FAA and industry stakeholders, the recently -unveiled Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment (TALPA) is providing pilots with more accurate and complete situational awareness of information about runway surface conditions. But business aircraft operators still face challenges in assessing conditions at some airports. A panel moderated by NBAA director of airports and ground infrastructure, Alex Gertsen, at the recent International Aviation Snow Symposium in Buffalo, NY reviewed the new program after its first season of implementation.

“This past Wwinter provided several opportunities to put TALPA to the test, and one finding is that many airports – mostly non-certificated, general aviation facilities – did not report field conditions (FICON),” said Alex Gertsen, NBAA’s director of airports and ground Infrastructure. “That’s a significant concern.”

On the Apr. 25 panel, Gertsen reiterated the said that business aviation community’s supports for the Runway Condition Assessment Matrix (RCAM), which is at the core of TALPA. The RCAM assigns runway condition codes (RwyCC) between zero and six for each third of the runway, with higher numbers indicating more favorable conditions. This information is then disseminated to pilots via notices to airmen (NOTAMs).

The problem is that although Part 139 air-carrier airports must use the RCAM, it’s voluntary for the airports often frequented by business aircraft. Gertsen acknowledged the challenges these smaller, often understaffed airfields sometimes face in providing timely field condition reports, adding that the FAA has created an online tool to facilitate expeditious NOTAM filing.

“We urge airfields to provide runway condition information and to file FICON NOTAMs for contaminated runways, and we strongly encourage more airports to report wet runways,” said Gertsen. “The change by the FAA, making wet runway reporting voluntary, presents a challenge to business aviation, which relies on these reports.”

Another challenge to wider TALPA implementation is a lack of time-of-arrival landing performance data for business aircraft. “TALPA relies upon manufacturers providing this performance data, which corresponds with reported RwyCCs,” said Rich Boll, chairman of the ATC, Airspace and Flight Technologies Working Group of the NBAA Access Committee.

“That’s a significant challenge, particularly for older aircraft,” added Boll. “However, we need manufacturers to provide operators with time-of-arrival landing data based on the RwyCC, or tell operators how to use their existing data in conjunction with the RwyCCs.”

Boll also encouraged airports to provide more timely and accurate runway-condition reports.

“Pilots must be able to trust FICONS and RwyCCs if we expect them to make operational decisions based on them, so these reports must be reliable, accurate and timely,” he concluded,” he said. ““The process is in place, and now it must be refined.”