New German air traffic system boosts airspace capacity by 11%

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German air navigation services provider DFS has said that the introduction of a new-generation air traffic services (ATS) system at its upper area control centre in Karlsruhe a year ago has created 11% more airspace capacity and been a "quantum leap" towards the Single European Sky.

The P1/VAFORIT-named system developed by Spain-based Indra Sistemas includes four-dimensional aircraft trajectory prediction, which allows air traffic controllers to foresee at what time aircraft will pass any point on their planned flight paths.

This will enable controllers to anticipate and resolve potential traffic conflicts at an earlier stage than in the past. Re-routings can be minimised, which should in turn reduce delays and unnecessary fuel burn.

Four-dimensional trajectory prediction is also a crucial part for the introduction of "free route airspace" structures to allow aircraft to head directly towards their destination rather than using established airways, which might not offer the shortest route.

DFS installed the new-generation system at its Karlsruhe control centre, which covers most of Germany's airspace above flight level 245, in December 2010.

Capacity in the respective area has so far been increased by 11%. However, DFS expects that this will grow further at 5-7% a year.

After 35 direct routings were implemented in a first phase in June 2011, a second stage with an additional 144 direct routings is currently underway. A wider expansion and integration with Maastricht upper area control centre and other air traffic management partners for the functional airspace block Europe central (FABEC) are being planned.

The capacity increase will allow DFS to close its upper area control operations in Munich and transfer them to Karlsruhe in 2013. The Munich facility covers four geographical areas in southeast Germany with approximately 250,000 aircraft movements a year. A total of 95 controllers will be moved from the Bavarian capital to Karlsruhe.

The new ATS system, which also makes conventional paper flight progress strips obsolete, was "not just a significant step forward but a quantum leap", said Ralph Riedle, managing director operations at DFS. "From a technological point of view, it has paved the way to SESAR [Single European Sky ATM Research project]," he added.