Vision On

Paul Adamson outlines how Eurocontrol in its role as Network Manager is contributing to making the vision of an intelligent airport network a reality.

Eurocontrol has been working closely with its stakeholders on important developments – such as Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) and Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control Systems (A-SMGCS) – for many years, but the nomination of Eurocontrol as Network Manager has given a new operational impetus to these activities.

The Network Manager’s Airports Unit focuses on integrating airports into the European ATM network and helps them improve their performance. In particular, efforts target reducing delays which propagate from an airport into the network and vice versa, the management of adverse conditions such as winter weather and other events that may have an impact upon the network.

These efforts are underpinned by a work programme that includes the development of co-operative action plans with airports as well as the co-ordinated deployment of relevant concepts and systems.

This article aims at updating the reader on some of these developments and activities.

A-CDM (Airport Collaborative Decision Making)

A-CDM is now established as an effective means of integrating the processes and systems at European airports; its implementation is gathering pace.

The focus of the concept is on aircraft turnaround and pre-departure sequencing, with associated data-sharing that enables airports, airlines, ground handlers, ATC and the Network Manager to work together.

When it is deployed, the benefits of A-CDM are immediately visible at the airport concerned; with more A-CDM airports coming on-line, the benefits are starting to be seen in the network, too.

The Network Manager’s Airports Unit continues its efforts to facilitate widespread implementation through the publication of guidance material and the provision of dedicated support. These efforts are being reinforced with the European Commission’s assistance via a TEN-T (Trans-European Transport Network) action to accelerate the deployment of the European ATM Master Plan baseline.

The close cooperation between Eurocontrol and organisations such as ACI (Airports Council International) and CANSO (Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation) helps considerably as well. All of this means that the target of 20 A-CDM airports by the end of 2014 is now in sight. The current total is six.

An important element in securing the maximum benefits from A-CDM is the harmonised implementation of the main operational and technical parameters. To this end, Eurocontrol has formed a dedicated task force, with participants representing a range of European airports, airlines and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and handling agents. The task force quickly agreed on the items that need to be addressed and is now working to ensure that harmonisation takes place.

A-CDM is increasingly attracting global attention, so global harmonisation will be a challenge for the future. Europe’s experience in A-CDM development and deployment will provide any associated initiatives with a sound baseline, with Eurocontrol and its Network Manager ready to play a key role.

Wake Turbulence Separation

The existing ICAO wake turbulence separations were defined some 40 years ago and it has been long recognised that they are outdated, leading to many States’ introducing their own amendments to the original separations.

The development of methods to measure vortices (and so to understand their behaviour), together with introduction of new aircraft types and the need to maximise runway throughput, led to a request by ICAO that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Eurocontrol develop a new set of separations.

The resulting initiative was launched in 2005 and split into three phases:

Phase 1 (RECAT-1): optimisation of the ICAO wake turbulence separation classes, with up to six categories;

Phase 2 (RECAT-2): replacement of separation categories with a static pair-wise regime, where each aircraft pair has its appropriate wake turbulence separation minima; and

Phase 3 (RECAT-3): a dynamic pair-wise separation, where actual conditions, such as aircraft weight and atmospheric conditions, are also considered.

The initial Phase 1 work, aimed at understanding the fleet mixes found at European and American airports, establishes the relationship between the number of classes and operational benefits.

During this assessment, it became clear that if aircraft are distributed into more classes, each class would include a narrower range of aircraft types and protection needs. With these narrower ranges, more precise separation needs can also be determined and some can be safely reduced. On the other hand, more classes bring more complexity for the air traffic controller, creating the need for support tools.

An outcome of the analysis was an agreement that, as six classes were already used at some aerodromes today, this would be the best compromise for short-term implementation.

So, for Phase 1, an initial scheme with six categories was jointly developed. These six categories were optimised for a combination of fleet mix samples at five US and four European capacity-constrained airports. The proposal provided capacity gains at all nine airports for the tested samples, but not the same capacity gain for each airport. As a result, further consultation led to additional work that focussed on the fleet mixes and potential capacity gains at European airports.

All of this has led to the situation where there are now two separate Phase 1 proposals, which are:

  • the initial proposal, now being implemented in the US; and
  • a second proposal, better reflecting the traffic mix in Europe, which is entering the final consultation period prior to implementation.

The adoption of slightly different solutions in Europe and the USA reflects the importance of local traffic mixes and throws a spotlight on the need for a solution that is sufficiently flexible to be adapted for differing traffic needs globally.

So, Phase 2 will focus upon the development of a pair-wise separation scheme that will allow airports and ANSPs around the world to group aircraft into categories based upon their own needs, even amending them as their traffic mix changes.

This work is being performed jointly by the FAA and EUROCONTROL through NextGen/SESAR collaboration, with full use being made of the experience gained and lessons learned during Phase 1.

A-SMGCS (Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control Systems)

Over the past decade, EUROCONTROL has developed the baseline for A-SMGCS services in Europe. It is founded on the ICAO A-SMGCS Manual and comprises two functional levels; A-SMGCS Levels 1 & 2.

The first level provides for the identification of aircraft in the movement area and transponder-equipped vehicles on the manoeuvring area while the second level provides for an alerting function to air traffic controllers in case of intrusion of aircraft or vehicles in a pre-defined protected area around the runway.

These concepts are now well accepted and widely deployed in Europe as well as globally. However, there is still much to be achieved by way of A-SMGCS development if the higher functional levels described by ICAO are to be deployed. In Europe, the lead is being taken by SESAR, with some eight projects engaged in the development of:

  • traffic routing and planning functions;
  • advanced ground and airborne guidance systems;
  • improved safety nets for ATC and on the flight deck.

The SESAR activities comprise a full development cycle from feasibility to concept definition, system development and validation. In particular, the validation activities include not only simulations and modelling, but also live trials (e.g. runway safety nets at Paris CDG and guidance systems at Milan Malpensa).

It is expected that the initial A-SMGCS related deliverables from SESAR will be available from 2014 onwards. These will enable improvements to runway safety nets through detection of conflicting ATC clearances and route deviations, better surveillance systems and the provision of runway conflict warnings directly to pilots using runway status lights.

In future, the European baseline referred to above (i.e. Levels 1 & 2) will be updated to take into account the output of SESAR.

In conclusion, through the creation of the European Network Management function, a vehicle for maximising the performance of the overall ATM system in Europe, including airports, has been put in place.

The Network Manager’s Airports Unit is now reaching out to airports to lay the foundations for a common understanding and to facilitate airports’ integration into the network. This will bring benefits both to the network and the airports themselves.

In addition, the Network Manager will evaluate the output of SESAR projects to identify those elements that will deliver network benefits through a widespread deployment.

All of these activities will ensure that the European ATM network will function as effectively as possible, with airports playing a vital role as the network’s nodes.




Paul Adamson is Head of the Airports Unit, Network Management Directorate, Eurocontrol


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