Traffic Collision Avoidance System - Current Implementation

Current Implementation

Although the system occasionally suffers from false alarms, pilots are now under strict instructions to regard all TCAS messages as genuine alerts demanding an immediate, high-priority response. Windshear Detection and GPWS alerts and warnings have higher priority than the TCAS. The FAA and most other countries' authorities' rules state that in the case of a conflict between TCAS RA and air traffic control (ATC) instructions, the TCAS RA always takes precedence (this is mainly because of the TCAS-RA inherently possessing a more current and comprehensive picture of the situation than air traffic controllers, whose radar/transponder updates usually happen at a much slower rate than the TCAS interrogations). If one aircraft follows a TCAS RA and the other follows conflicting ATC instructions, a collision can occur, such as the July 1, 2002 Ɯberlingen disaster. In this mid-air collision, both airplanes were fitted with TCAS II Version 7.0 systems which functioned properly, but one obeyed the TCAS advisory while the other ignored the TCAS and obeyed the controller; both aircraft descended into a fatal collision.

This accident could have been prevented if TCAS was able to reverse the original RA for one of the aircraft when it detects that the crew of the other one is not following their original TCAS RA, but conflicting ATC instructions instead. This is one of the features that will be implemented within Version 7.1 of TCAS II.

Implementation of TCAS II Version 7.1 has been originally planned to start between 2009 and 2011 by retrofitting and forward fitting all the TCAS II equipped aircraft, with the goal that by 2014 the version 7.0 will be completely phased out and replaced by version 7.1. The FAA and EASA have already published the TCAS II Version 7.1 Technical Standard Order (TSO-C119c and ETSO-C119c, respectively) effective since 2009, based on the RTCA DO-185B and EUROCAE ED-143 standards. On 25 September 2009 FAA issued Advisory Circular AC 20-151A providing guidance for obtaining airworthiness approval for TCAS II systems, including the new version 7.1. On 5 October 2009 the Association of European Airlines (AEA) published a Position Paper showing the need to mandate TCAS II Version 7.1 on all aircraft as a matter of priority. On 25 March 2010 the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) published Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) No. 2010-03 pertaining to the introduction of ACAS II software version 7.1. On 14 September 2010 EASA published the Comment Response Document (CRD) to the above mentioned NPA. Separately, a proposal has been made to amend the ICAO standard to require TCAS II Version 7.1 for compliance with ACAS II SARPs.

ICAO has circulated an amendment for formal member state agreement which recommends TCAS II Change 7.1 adoption by 1 January 2014 for forward fit and 1 January 2017 for retrofit. Following the feedback and comments from airline operators, EASA has proposed the following dates for the TCAS II Version 7.1 mandate in European airspace: forward fit (for new aircraft) 1 March 2012, retrofit (for existing aircraft) 1 December 2015. These dates are proposed dates, subject to further regulatory processes, and are not final until the Implementing Rule has been published.

Among the system manufacturers, by February 2010 ACSS certified Change 7.1 for their TCAS 2000 and Legacy TCAS II systems, and is currently offering Change 7.1 upgrade for their customers. By June 2010 Honeywell published a white paper with their proposed solutions for TCAS II Version 7.1. Rockwell Collins currently announces that their TCAS-94, TCAS-4000 and TSS-4100 TCAS II compliant systems are software upgradeable to Change 7.1 when available.

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