Trials of a new-generation terminal airspace air traffic management (ATM) system are under way at Germany's Langen air traffic control research centre. A simulation of traffic in the Frankfurt Main airport terminal area is being used to test the human/machine interface systems for the first step - airborne spacing, sequencing and merging - in a new Eurocontrol-led programme that will gradually see ATM move from the ground into the air.

The first practical part of Eurocontrol's Cascade programme - which uses the technologies for automatic dependent surveillance (ADS) and air ground co-operative air traffic services by datalink - the trial is simulating real Frankfurt arrival patterns from cruising levels into the final approach to land.

Air traffic controllers are being exposed to the techniques for sharing with pilots the task of achieving more-precise sequencing and merging to enable higher landing rates to be achieved, with no reduction in safety.

Controllers are being provided with on-screen display tools. One is a 4D (four-dimensional, where the fourth dimension is time) planner. This submits proposals to the responsible sector controller, projecting a final-approach sequence, together with target times for the aircraft at a metering fix and at the runway threshold.

The air traffic controller, who may choose to delegate to the pilot separation distances and times to achieve waypoints, retains responsibility for safe separation, and can vary the 4D planner advice if judgement dictates.

This trial launches the Cascade programme, which has been several years in preparation, and it will not move into its final phase until beyond 2020, when it is envisaged almost all ATM decisions will be taken in cockpits.

Alex Wandels, formerly in charge of setting up the Link 2000+ datalinking programme, has been designated Eurocontrol's Cascade programme manager.



Source: Flight International