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SESAR: Full speed ahead

Posted: 7 February 2012 | Bo Redeborn, Principal Director of Air Traffic Management, EUROCONTROL | No comments yet

SESAR is the research and development arm of the Single European Sky. A founding member of the SESAR Joint Undertaking, EUROCONTROL is a major contributor to this huge programme, covering everything from 4D trajectories to system wide information management and, of course, airports.

Pushing forward
The SESAR airport activities have now all started, all partners are fully occupied with the activities, and, at least in EUROCONTROL, personnel are extremely busy, trying to keep up with the plan.

Most of the current activities are related to Step 1 of the SESAR concept, “Time Based Operations”. Three main topics are being addressed in this phase:

SESAR is the research and development arm of the Single European Sky. A founding member of the SESAR Joint Undertaking, EUROCONTROL is a major contributor to this huge programme, covering everything from 4D trajectories to system wide information management and, of course, airports.

Pushing forward

The SESAR airport activities have now all started, all partners are fully occupied with the activities, and, at least in EUROCONTROL, personnel are extremely busy, trying to keep up with the plan.

Most of the current activities are related to Step 1 of the SESAR concept, “Time Based Operations”. Three main topics are being addressed in this phase:

● Integration of airports into the ATM network through improved planning.

● Improved surface movement capacity and safety through the development and validation of advanced A-SMGCS applications.

● Improved runway efficiency.

The Detailed Operational Description covering Step 1 has been completed and the individual projects are now developing detailed descriptions and functional requirements, allowing technical partners to start their development and prototyping.

The airport within the ATM Network

Two main components are aimed at improving the integration of airports within the ATM network.

The first is the definition of an Airport Operations Plan (AOP) for all airports that can be integrated within the Network Operations Plan (NOP). The AOP is envisaged as a rolling plan containing all the elements required to monitor key performance areas of the airport. A number of elements (such as arrival and departure times, but also information related to the airport configuration and capacity) will be shared with the NOP in order to have one commonly agreed view of the traffic and the airport configuration – both now and also looking forward.

Major airports or groups of airports will manage their own AOP using propriety systems, whereas a centralised service will be provided by the Network Manager to small airports, reducing the need for local investment.

The other new component is the definition of the Airport Operations Centre (APOC). All major airport operators (ATC, ground handlers, airlines and airport management) are represented in the APOC, which automatically monitors key performance indicators and alerts operators if the agreed target levels cannot be met – for example if there is a drop in capacity due to bad weather.

The APOC will develop ‘what-if’ scenarios and, working collaboratively, will agree on the best solution. This will also include co-ordination with the Network Manager. It is envisaged that the APOC might be implemented as a physical site in the airport, or be a virtual ‘room’, where the agents participate in the APOC processes from their own offices. The APOC concept will be validated by gaming exercises in 2012.

Surface movement

Many airports have already installed Automated Surface Movement Guidance and Control Systems (A-SMGCS). Future improvements for the surface movement operations will build on this experience and validation has started as planned. An industrial prototype has been integrated with a Tower Controller Working Position and simulations have been successfully conducted at EUROCONTROL’s Luxembourg site.

Improved predictability will be achieved by providing an accurate route for arriving and departing aircraft. In addition to static infor – mation such as standard taxi routes, the routing planning function would be continuously updated (for example, by down-linking from aircraft) defining runway exit, change of runway or taxi scheme and change of departing or arriving stand.

If we can achieve more accurate taxi times and feed these in to the start-up approval process that will mean fewer aircraft taxiing at the same time and waiting for take-off – reducing fuel consumption and emissions as well as increasing safety.

Improved situational awareness and safety will also be realised through a display of planned and cleared routes, both for controllers and, via an uplink, to aircraft and vehicles as well; this will be particularly useful in adverse weather conditions.

The A-SMGCS Control function automatically detects if mobiles are not complying with their cleared route and alerts the controllers, flight crews and/or vehicle drivers. This non-compliance might be a deviation from the cleared route or non-adherence to the controller instructions.

Human in the loop (HITL) simulations have been conducted using an Integrated Controller Working Position tailored to the needs of the new SESAR applications. This allows the ATCO to use the new Runway and Surface Management tools and functions without adding excess workload; at the same time the tools will act as the interface to the A-CDM (Airport Collaborative Decision Making) platform, providing the essential times used for the planning of the turn-round, predeparture and taxi out phases.

Autumn 2011 also saw the first validation activities of the Remote Tower concept based on surveillance via advanced cameras.

Runway management

Wake Vortex is one of the most constraining factors for runway capacity in major European Airports, which in turn has been identified as a vital issue for the future capacity of the network as a whole.

Within SESAR, the validation of the concept of Time Based Separation has started. This will lead to a reduced loss of capacity in periods with strong headwind on final approach – in other words, airports will be able to operate at closer to full capacity. This should help cut the major delays currently seen at busy airports in such conditions.

In parallel with that, and with support from ICAO, a joint EUROCONTROL/FAA working group has developed a proposal for a new definition of the Wake Vortex weight categories. This will lead to increased runway throughput in many congested airports.

Other activities have started looking at how the Runway Occupancy Time can be reduced and better predicted, and if there is a possibility to reduce separation on final approach.

The next steps

The SESAR Airport Work Package is lead by AENA, supported by a number of major European airports, ANSPs, ATM system providers, Airbus and EUROCONTROL. There is a very good cooperation between the partners and a lot of constructive work is being carried out.

A recent cost benefit analysis based on the initial results shows that the return on investment is fairly high for the airports and that capacity constrained airports will quickly recoup their investments when implementing the envisaged SESAR applications.

In the coming year the definition of a number of the more advanced applications will start. These applications will aim at a more performance-based management of the airport, giving operators a clearer view of the impact that various scenarios will have on key performance areas.

 

About the author

Bo Redeborn started his training as an Air Traffic Controller at the Swedish ATS Academy in 1972 and was subsequently employed by the Swedish Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). In the 1980s he spent six years as an ATCO in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on an ICAO Technical Assistance mission, then returned to the CAA and took up managerial functions with increasing responsibility. He joined EUROCONTROL in February 2004 as Director ATM Strategies and was appointed to his current position as Principal Director ATM at the beginning of January 2011. He is responsible for overseeing the organisation’s ATM policy and development and for managing high level strategic relations with key ATM partners. He also heads the Directorate of SESAR and Research which encompasses the activities delivering EUROCONTROL’s contribution to the SESAR Joint Undertaking Work Programme.

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