SESAR reports early success with ATM efficiency boost

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Early results from the application of new air traffic management techniques shows significant improvements in efficiency, according to an initial report by European air traffic management research organisation, SESAR. In busy terminal airspace the changes have brought fuel savings and major reductions in holding times.

Under the arrival manager (AMAN) "extended horizon" programme, air traffic management has reached beyond the borders of the terminal manoeuvring areas (TMA) into upstream airspace sectors, enabling them to pre-sequence incoming flights and improve four-dimensional trajectory management, reducing fuel burn and emissions.

Applied to London TMA, AMAN coverage was extended to 930km (503nm), beyond the limits of the UK airspace into regions managed by neighbouring air navigation service providers. SESAR reports that fuel burned in the last 850km of journeys into London was reduced by 942kg on average per flight - a 9% decrease. Stack holding time was reduced by between 78% and 87%, "with proportional positive consequences on the flight's environmental impact". The exercises in London also indicated that extended AMAN did not appear to affect the en route controllers' workload.

At London, AMAN is combined with a system known as "point merge", which uses precision area navigation (P-RNAV) technologies to improve the convergence and the smooth sequencing of approaching and departing flights. The SESAR Release 1 report says: "These new procedures could make a substantial contribution to the development of a new, fully effective air traffic management concept for TMA airspace. The validation exercises in London showed a reduction in fuel burn and related emissions of 2%. At the same time, runway throughput increased by 4% in the entire London TMA, while the work load of air traffic controllers dropped by 16%."

In a medium density TMA, AMAN horizon was extended to 400km from Rome Fiumicino airport, and this achieved showed a drop in fuel consumption of up to 7.2% for a short-haul Airbus A320 flying from Paris to Rome, with CO2 emissions reduced by about 325Kg.

In Madrid's TMA, SESAR trials have shown that improved procedures and guidelines for implementing P-RNAV to improve ATM efficiency and reduce controller workload while allowing substantial capacity increases. The trials included continuous descent approaches (CDA) and continuous climb departures (CCD) using P-RNAV. These reduced airborne waiting time in Madrid's TMA, cutting emissions and delays. The technology also enabled Madrid's two parallel runways to be operated independently, allowing a doubling of aircraft movements.

Meanwhile the report shows that controllers at Malmö airport in Sweden have successfully operated the remote tower facility at Ängelholm airport 100km away in day-to-day live air and ground traffic, testing the latest updates to the remote tower concept and its technologies across a variety of conditions, including daylight, dawn, darkness, good visibility and low visibility conditions, proving that under normal conditions a safe service could be provided remotely.