《经济学人》:飞向未来 Flight to the future
日期:2011-10-08 09:23


Modernising creaking air-traffic systems will be a huge task

THESE days a $15,000 car comes with GPS satellite navigation fitted as standard. But a $150m airliner still has to be guided through the skies by spoken instructions from a bloke with a radio in a control tower. That is because air-traffic management (ATM) systems are stuck in the 1950s.

Instead of flying straight, planes must zigzag from one ground beacon to the next, and ascend and descend in steps, at each stage obtaining permission from the ground. The controllers’ radar only shows planes’ approximate positions, so they must space them well apart. All this wastes fuel and causes congestion and delays. The average flight in European airspace is 50km (31 miles) longer than it need be.
从一个地面信标到另一个, 飞机必须蜿蜒飞行而不是直线飞行,一会升一会降,而这每一个步骤飞机都需要从地面取得许可。并且,因为雷达只显示飞机的大概位置,所以控制员必须从很远的地方来定位。所有这些都导致了燃油的浪费,还会造成交通拥堵和延误。在欧洲,飞机运行的距离平均都要比实际所需距离长50公里(31英里)。

So the world’s aviation authorities are seeking to modernise the whole system, streamlining the routing of flights and providing much more real-time information to pilots and controllers. This could lead to huge orders for electronics firms, which is why, in his recent jobs speech, President Barack Obama called for $1 billion of extra cash to speed up America’s ATM-modernisation project, NextGen.
因此,全世界的航空当局正致力于革新整个航空系统,使航行路线更为顺畅,提供飞行员和管制员更加及时的信息。电子工业也会紧跟着收到巨额订单,这就是为什么奥巴马总统在最近的就业报告中提出要用额外的10亿美元来加速发展美国的航空交通管理系统现代化项目 - 下一代(NexGen)。

A study by consultants from McKinsey of Europe’s equivalent project, SESAR, finds that its costs should be dwarfed by the fuel savings and the economic boost from squeezing more flights into Europe’s busy skies. America stands to make similar gains. It is in everyone’s interest to invest in modernisation, but the airlines are wary: several times in recent history they have bought expensive kit only to find they cannot use it because controllers have failed to upgrade their equipment to match.

These sorts of ambitious projects to introduce new technology, with countless participants, are prone to cock-ups. Those involved in ATM modernisation want to avoid what happened when mobile-phone standards were set, with different countries ending up with incompatible systems. To guard against that risk, the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has just held a summit in Montreal, at which it divided the long list of ATM modernisation projects into manageable chunks, on which the world’s aviation authorities will try to agree standards, one at a time. The process has started well, though developing countries are said to worry about rich countries imposing costly programmes on them.
这些雄心勃勃的项目引进新的技术,还有不计其数的参与者,却常常一团糟。先前在设置手机标准的时候,每个国家最后都设立了自己的系统标准,和其他国家的系统都互不兼容,参与空中交通管理系统(ATM)现代化的人希望不会重蹈覆辙。为了避免此类风险,联合国的国际民用航空组织(ICAO)刚刚在蒙特利尔举行峰会, 在这次峰会上,ICAO把ATM现代化项目分成一个个更易于管理操作的阶段目标,而在这些阶段目标上,全世界的航空当局将会达成世界共同的标准。目前这一计划已经开始起步,与此同时,发展中国家很担心发达国家会将昂贵的项目强加给他们。

Agreeing on technical standards will be difficult enough. Harder still, says Nancy Graham, an ICAO official, will be paying for it all. Officials in Brussels talk of providing

  • proneadj. 俯卧的,易于 ... 的,有 ... 倾向的
  • controln. 克制,控制,管制,操作装置 vt. 控制,掌管,支
  • waryadj. 小心的,机警的
  • costlyadj. 昂贵的,代价高的
  • avoidvt. 避免,逃避
  • beaconn. 烟火,灯塔
  • boostvt. 推进,提高,增加 n. 推进,增加 v.
  • permissionn. 同意,许可,允许
  • upgradevt. 提高,加强,改善 adv. 向上地 n. 提高,
  • flightn. 飞行,航班 n. 奇思妙想,一段楼梯 n.