Kung Fu ATM: from Beijing dialogue to workgroups in Nanjing


Kung Fu is often taken to mean martial arts.  However, the literal translation of Kung Fu refers to any discipline or skill that requires hard work, patience, and dedication to master.  This description could not be more apt for ATM. 

ATMB has brought ATM to a new level of Kung Fu mastery, albeit not widely known.  Through CANSO activities, this ATM proficiency is impacting the region by osmosis.  In contrast to the Great Wall of China, there are no walls in ATM, only networks.  Here is a snapshot.

Simon Hocquard and I had the opportunity to visit ATMB’s new Three Centre Project and had some insightful conversations with the leadership of CAAC and ATMB in Beijing.  After Beijing, I joined the CANSO Asia Pacific Operations and Safety Work Group meetings hosted by ATMB in Nanjing. 

Simon and I were looking forward to visiting ATMB’s Three Centres in Beijing which were inaugurated in 2021.  We finally had the chance, and the experience did not disappoint.  The Three Centres consisting of the Operation Management Centre, Meteorological Centre, and Information Management Centre have a futuristic façade, impressive on the outside and teeming with activities on the inside. 

Miao Xuan, the Deputy Director General of ATMB, proudly showed us around as he was the architect behind this landmark project.  The Operation Management Centre, with capacity for future growth, is like the Network Manager of Europe.  We briefly discussed the possibility of allowing personnel from other regional air navigation service providers visit ATMB’s facilities.  After all, sharing best practices is so much an integral part of the regional ATM community. 

On 6 November 2023, Simon met with Ma Bing, the Deputy Administrator of CAAC.  Ma Bing used to be an air traffic controller himself and both men shared similar experiences.  They discussed the significance of regional cooperation, mutual understanding, and stability in ATM.  Both agreed on the importance of cooperation and network for ATM.  As many companies in China are not well known to the rest of the world, CANSO can be a bridge between the two. 

The evening banquet hosted by Wen Xuezheng, the Acting DG and Party Secretary of ATMB, was dignified without being ostentatious.  There was serious conversation mixed with light-hearted banter. After a few rounds of “ganbei” (drying of the cup) with “baijiu” (Chinese liquor), there were frank exchanges fostering warmer endearment.  Simon and I were thankful to ATMB’s support to CANSO and hosting of the Asia Pacific Conference next year and looked forward to a spectacular event. 

In the same week, the CANSO Asia Pacific Operations Work Group and Safety Work Group met in Nanjing.  There was a combined session of the two Work Groups with the theme of integrating unmanned aviation.  Apart from the sharing by regional ANSPs, EHang gave a presentation on the progress of its unmanned programme, while Boeing briefed on the future air transport market.  There were also presentations by the Second Research Institute of CAAC, China Electronic Technology Group Corporation (CETC) LES Information System, and Aviation Data Communication Corp.

 What was more valuable than the meeting content was perhaps the team building in the two days.  The dinner by the host came with the local drinking culture that broke down any inhibitions quickly.  Many foreign participants were quick to learn “ganbei” and were moving around the dining room like the locals.  We got to know each other’s stories a lot better.  Building friendship and achieving mutual understanding are prerequisites to more cooperation.  The affective network comes before the operational network. 

The Work Group participants also visited CETC LES Information System.  They showcased the full range of ATM and airport digital solutions gate to gate which were already deployed.  These included digital tower, A-SMGCS up to level four, departure manager, arrival manager, ATC automation system, voice communication and control system, ADS-B system, ATFM system.  Since ATM technology is not rocket science, customer relations and pricing are important.

Regional ATM is a team sport, and everyone must play an active part.  ATMB is clearly stepping up to the plate.  The CANSO Asia Pacific Conference will take place in Chengdu, China in July next year which will also include other community building activities.  The Nanjing experience was a small prelude of what is to come.  We eagerly await Kung Fu in regional ATM.