Dutch ANSP embarks on time-based innovation

Air Traffic Control the Netherlands (LVNL) is preparing to implement its Speed and Route Advisor (SARA) project, part of a strategy to completely innovate the way in which aircraft arrive at major airports where there is a high volume of traffic.
The tool, which will allow the implementation of fixed arrival routes in the TMA and, at a later stage, continuous decent approaches, has been called for by local communities since the 1990s and is now finally within reach.
The project, which is led by Rudy Megens, will deliver its first results in May 2012 and is being seen as something more that just a system change to the Schiphol ATM system.
“For the controller community this step means no less than the transition to time-based operations,” says Megens.
The project has been linked to the Single European Sky SESAR programme in which the European ATM system is set to undergo a complete paradigm shift and SARA validation exercises during 2011 are part of SESAR’s Release-1 package which will deliver the first benefits to airspace users.
The initial stages of SESAR implementation focus on the transition to time-based operations as a precursor to trajectory based operations and ultimately performance-based operations.
The initial development of SARA dates back to 2007 when LVNL developed the Concept of Operation in a joint effort with the Dutch Aerospace Laboratory NLR and US airframer Boeing.
The concept was validated in a series of simulation and live trial exercises at Schiphol airport in 2009. The trials, which were part of Boeing’s global programme to promote Tailored Arrivals, convinced controllers that it was the right direction in which to go to make operations more predictable and stable.
“This system innovation is the enabler for improved TMA operations on which the future of Schiphol airport hinges,” says Megens.
Initial implementation – scheduled for 2012 – will be co-ordinated with adjacent centres Maastricht UAC and UK air traffic services provider NATS and focuses on extending the TMA planning horizon. Pre-streaming of inbound traffic streams to meet an accurate TMA entry time is one of the key goals of the SARA implementation project.
“Performing arrival management in a concerted effort with adjacent en-route centres is what SESAR is really about.” says Megens.
Results of the final SARA validation activities are due to be presented at the industry conference ATC Global in 2012 in Amsterdam.