Airport Business

DEC 2016 - JAN 2017

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AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL December 2016/January 2017 airportbusiness 31 (latitude, longitude, altitude, time) of the predicted location of each aircraft, at each metered point in time. With this enhanced situational awareness, traffic managers can adjust routes and spacing to manage air traffic flows more effectively. Similar technology was utilized at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) to better accommodate its 1.2 million passengers during busy winter travel seasons in 2012 and 2013, just as the airport was shrinking to one run- way due to a capital improvement project. Despite the substantial runway challenge, 2.5 percent more flights arrived on time compared with the same time period during the season before construc- tion started. Overall arrival delays declined by 10.7 percent; with 1,037 fewer delayed arrivals, pas- sengers benefitted from five fewer delayed flights on a daily basis. At the same time, average gate arrival delays decreased by 10.6 percent and gate departure delays decreased by 8.7 percent. Time-based metering can also help safely fill open slots in the runway, which create opportu- nities to increase the number of flights per day using existing facilities. Improving estimated time of arrival accuracy also positively impacts the passenger's experience and their perception of the airport. ENABLING PERFORMANCE-BASED NAVIGATION Another benefit of time-based flow management is that it enables airports to adhere to perfor- mance-based navigation (PBN) standards the FAA has championed to make air traffic flow more efficient. Integrating and automating the data flow between air traffic control centers and towers for greater communication and collabora- tion is crucial to achieving PBN. Many airports still rely on a phone call-driven process to approve departures, which can be time-consuming and contribute to increased workload. Longer delays on the runways also impact an airport's ability to safely maximize capacity. With greater integration, controllers in the tower can electronically notify the air traffic control cen- ters about a departure request. A notification can then be approved with the simple push of a button instead of through a phone call. Manual processes, like phone conversations, would only be needed when the control center feels they are necessary. Some tower controllers also have greater visi- bility into approaching traffic thanks to integrat- ed decision support. Historically, tower controllers have only been able to see that a certain number of aircraft are scheduled to land, but do not have any guidance in regard to the arrival sequence. In some airports, controllers can now better coordinate arriv- als through visualization of the aircraft sequence as calculated by time-based flow management tech- nology. This situational awareness helps controllers maintain the sequence and adequate runway spac- ing, which can prevent holding patterns near the airport and increase flight schedule predictability. For example, take a scenario in which a control- ler must advise three flights heading to a certain airspace at 11 a.m. Time-based flow management might determine that flight No. 1 should arrive at 11 a.m., but flight No. 2 should arrive at 11:05 a.m. and flight No. 3 at 11:10 a.m. The en route controllers feeding the terminal radar approach can then delay flights No. 2 and No. 3 by assigning them a slower speed or a different altitude. This feature is especially advantageous in busy airports where air space is at a premium and tower controllers want to maximize capacity by limiting the open runway slots. With integrated systems and data access, controllers have visual evidence of why they might need to leave a slot open to maintain a certain sequence. By adhering to the technology's pre-calculated flight plan, towers can help maxi- mize the number of arriving and departing flights. Pilots are also better able to follow PBN proce- dures with decision support. Traditional approach protocols, for example, involve flying past the run- way to position the aircraft for arrival based on wind direction. By utilizing onboard performance monitoring and alerts, pilots can enhance their sit- uational awareness to follow procedures for a more efficient runway approach. On the whole, PBN standards can contribute to greater safety, capacity, predictability, environmen- tal impact and operational efficiency. At Hartsfield- Jackson Atlanta International Airport, for example, flights are 48 percent faster from gate to departure and into en route airspace using PBN procedures — saving Delta Airlines alone $10 million to $12 million per year. SHARING INFORMATION AMONG STAKEHOLDERS Despite the numerous decision support tools avail- able to airports to improve efficiency and capac- ity, it is collaborative efforts between the FAA and carriers that promise the greatest continuous improvement opportunities. The same technology that enables more efficient air traffic operations, for instance, can also capture data useful to air carriers and airports. Through a single interface and a stan- dard data format, different producers and users of data can communicate and exchange intelligence to guide tactical and long-term strategic decisions. For NAS stakeholders such as the FAA and other air traffic managers, this information sharing should enhance coordination between multiple FAA sys- tems to maximize efficiency and decrease delays. ENHANCING AND EXPANDING COMMUNICATION Collaborative communication is essential for both those in the air and on the ground. Digital commu- nication technology in aircraft now allows pilots to update route information on their own with support from tower controllers. Consider the scenario in which tower con- trollers determine prior to takeoff that a route adjustment is necessary due to a weather event. Currently, in most airports, this requires a controller to read the new route over the radio to the pilot, who repeats the instructions and manually enters them into the aircraft's avionics system. Depending on route complexity, this process is error-prone and can be highly time-consuming. A departure clear- ance using voice communications can take two to three times longer than a departure clearance with digital text communication; it becomes even slower in high-traffic situations. At some airports, the process of providing navigation instructions can occur multiple times before takeoff. With the improved digital communication technology already implemented in some airports the route adjustment automatically uploads into the avionics system and is accepted by the pilot with the push of a button. This technology will be available for airborne aircraft in en route air- space through the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) system in 2019. Paul Engola is the Senior Vice President of Transpor- taƟon and Financial SoluƟons and Fran Hill is Vice President of Air Traffic Programs, both at Leidos, formerly Lockheed MarƟn InformaƟon Systems & Global SoluƟons. Paul Engola ABOUT THE AUTHOR Read more at 12276023

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