Thorgeir Palsson - Biographical Profile
Thorgeir Palsson assumed the position of Professor of Air Navigation Technology at Reykjavik University´s School of Science and Engineering in June of 2010 where he is primarily engaged in research and development activities relating to air navigation and aviation in general. This is focused on the development of Air Traffic Management Systems including communications networks, navigation and surveillance systems as well as the Command and Control systems that constitute the core of Air Traffic Control Centers.
Thorgeir Palsson earned his S.B., S.M. and Sc.D. degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1966, 1967 and 1971 respectively. His area of specialty was in the design of automatic flight control and guidance systems for aircraft and space vehicles. After graduating from MIT he worked for four years as a research engineer at The Analytic Sciences Corporation of Reading, Mass. on the analysis and design of inertial and satellite navigation systems. In particular he worked on the development of estimation techniques based on Kalman filtering for integrating external measurements for improving the performance of autonomous navigation systems on-board marine vessels. In 1976 he became associate professor of Systems Engineering in the Engineering Department of the University of Iceland and full professor in 1986 until 1992. During this period he gave courses on the design of automatic feed-back control systems and the theory and application of stochastic systems and processes. He also gave a course on the theory and design of navigation systems and their application in aviation and marine navigation.
At the University of Iceland Dr. Palsson established the Systems Engineering Laboratory in 1979 and served as its director until 1992 when he became Director General of Civil Aviation. Under his leadership the Systems Engineering Laboratory undertook the development ofan Automatic Position Reporting System for the Icelandic fishing fleet. This involved the development of a test system including the on-board equipment that was installed on several vessels for test purposes. It also entailed the development of shore stations and a central monitoring center where the traffic information was presented to center personnel on situation displays. This system led to the implementation of an operational system that has been operated on behalf of the Icelandic Ministry of Transport for almost twenty years to monitor the entire fishing fleet off the coast of Iceland. Participation in this system is mandatory. Subsequently the Systems Engineering Laboratory took on the task of developing Air Traffic Managment computer systems for the Reykjavik Area Control Center which was operated by the Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration (ICAA). This lead to the establishment in 1997 of a company, TERN Systems Inc., owned jointly by the ICAA and the University of Iceland. TERN subsequently took over this development work that has delivered key operational systems to the air traffic control center over a period of thirty years.
In additions to his duties as professor at the University of Iceland he served as a technical advisor to the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) on a program for establishing the Iceland Air Defense System (IADS). This program that was implemented in the time period from 1983 to 1994 was carried out in cooperation with US military authorities and NATO. This entailed the building of four radar stations in Iceland and the procurement and installation of long-range surveillance radar systems that are still in full use for monitoring civil and military air traffic in the airspace up to 500 km off the coast of Iceland. This program also included the establishment of a company in Iceland, Kogun Inc., for maintaining and up-grading the software of the command and control center of IADS. Dr. Palsson served from 1983 to 1993 (as chairman from 1988) on the MFA´s Radar Committe which administered the IADS program on behalf of the ministry.
In 1992 Thorgeir Palsson assumed the position of Director General of Civil Aviation heading the Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration that was responsible for providing airport and air traffic services in Iceland as well as being the state authority for flight safety. After reorganization of the ICAA in 2007 he became the Chief Executive of Isavia, a state-owned company that was established to take over all service provision that had previously been provided by the Civil Aviation Administration (ICAA). He served in this position until May of 2010. In his capacity as director of civil aviation and subsequently director of Isavia he has been active in all aspects of aviation including air navigation services in the North Atlantic, airport operations in Iceland as well as safety regulation of civil aircraft and air transport operations.
Thorgeir Palsson authored a number of technical papers and articles on ship surveillance and air navigation technology and related subjects during his years as the head of the Systems Engineering Laboratory of the University of Iceland. During his tenure as Director General of the Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration and Isavia he had responsibility for initiating and coordinating numerous research and development activities that were carried out by these institutions in the period between 1992 and 2010. During this time he also gave lectures and presentations on technical subjects related to air traffic services and airport operations and served on various bodies addressing issues relevant to international civil aviation. In 2004 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Icelandic Association of Chartered Engineers in recognition of his technical achievements including the development of systems for automatic surveillance and monitoring of ships at sea and for air traffic control. He was the Chairman of the Board of the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) and member of the ECAC (European Civil Aviation Conference) Coordination Committee in 2005-2006. He also served as the President of the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly in 1995.