Improving Safety and Increasing Airspace Capacity

Client: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Johnson Space Center (JSC)

Background: The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and its member states have globally implemented RVSM standards as a means to increase airspace capacity and access to more fuel-efficient flight levels. An operator must meet the minimum monitoring requirements for their aircraft as established by their respective state authority to maintain their RVSM approval status.

Challenge: In 2008-2009, NASA determined that the pitot-static system on their T-38N aircraft, which is used to support NASA’s astronaut training program, needed further refinement to meet the requirements for RVSM operations.  NASA asked CSSI to support the monitoring effort for their T-38N fleet to ensure compliance with RVSM operation standards. The T-38N is a small, two-person aircraft and therefore the monitoring equipment could not be set up and operated in the same manner as the typical commercial and general aviation aircraft data collection effort.  CSSI had to develop a new method to monitor this type of aircraft.

Solution: Since T-38N RVSM monitoring missions would be flown with a pilot and crewmember/co-pilot, CSSI developed a simple installation method for the Enhanced Global Monitoring Unit (EGMU) and data collection procedure and trained the crew to perform it while operating the aircraft.  A single EGMU antenna was temporarily placed on the cockpit canopy of the T-38N and the EGMU’s receiver was strapped to the co-pilot’s leg, allowing easy access to the data collection device while the pilot focused completely on flying the test points since the aircraft does not have an autopilot.

CSSI performed the post-flight processing of each of the data files collected by the T-38N pilot and transmitted the post processed data to the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center for final Altimetry System Error (ASE) calculation.

Results:

  • In 2012/2013, NASA performed monitoring flights for the T-38N in support of the new long-term monitoring requirement implemented in November 2012.
  • CSSI supported more than 90 RVSM monitoring flights for NASA T-38N aircraft from November 2008 through May 2013.
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