User Driven Prioritization Process (UDPP)…

On 25/04/2016, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

The User Driven Prioritisation Process (UDPP) came to life in an exercise which took place in March 2016. Before we go into the details, it is worth mentioning that the idea was born during the SESAR definition phase (anyone still remembering what that was all about?) and it took only 9 (NINE!!!) years for SESAR to reach this point… I wonder how many more years will pass before UDPP is actually implemented. Of course, as some have pointed out, 9 years is not so bad after all. Micro Offsets needed  15 years and Time Based Separation 23 years… so what is 9 years compared to that? Anyway, in case the SESAR folks happen to read this, a small thank you note to Alex would I am sure be appreciated!

UDPP aims to provide more flexibility to airspace users in case of delays on departure, en-route and arrival in capacity constrained situations (for example due to adverse weather or industrial action). It takes place in a Collaborative Decision Making context. The UDPP Step 1 process (including slot swapping) covers flight exchanges within a sequence list at a point of congestion (departure, en-route, arrival), and is now being progressively deployed. The UDPP Step 2 concept provides an additional layer of flexibility by allowing an anticipative management of airspace user flight schedules in delay situations.

The project aims to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the different actors collaborating in UDPP (airspace users, Network Manager, FMPs, airports); ensuring a smooth integration with other Demand and Capacity Balancing measures; and further validating performance.

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Wake-up call

On 30/01/2016, in SESAR's Palace, by cleo

FrustrationReading the news coming out of Europe’s premier money burner program, SESAR, is always entertaining but when they reinvent the wheel, it is especially so. Never mind that they work with a Master Plan for the future ATM in Europe that keeps repeating things strategy documents 15 years ago were already showing as urgently needed, they have now discovered the need for a next generation communications system that we knew was essential since 1994.

A consortium led by ENAV and composed of Aena, Airbus, Air France, DFS, DSNA, EasyJet, LFV, Lufthansa, NATS, SITA and the University of Salzburg have concluded that the technology currently mandated for air/ground digital link in Europe, VDL Mode 2, will only cut it for a time with four frequencies but even then, it is highly recommended to “prioritise the development of the next generation of datalink technology within SESAR”.

SESAR woke up to the need to do something as a result of the problems encountered with the current implementation of VDL Mode 2 and the resulting hick ups in CPDLC usage. It is commendable that they have reacted and the conclusions of the study are to be welcomed. The proposal to resolve the current problems to ensure that the usage of VDL Mode 2 can be assured for a reasonable length of time is of course the right one, after all, the airlines have invested heavily in this technology and so far have had zero benefits. The recommendation to start working on a next-generation communications system is even more welcome.

What the news fails to mention is that the proposal to start working on a new system has been around for decades and in fact EUROCONTROL had started to work on such a system, work which was relegated to the dust bin when the powers that be decided to kill EUROCONTROL in favor of the brave new world centered on SESAR.

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The new-old ATM Master Plan for Europe. Is anything ever going to change here?

On 16/12/2015, in SESAR's Palace, by cleo

Those of you who have been worrying about the future of Air Traffic Management in Europe can now sleep well once again. The 2015 edition of the European ATM Master Plan has now been formally approved by the members of the Administrative Board of the SESAR Joint Undertaking.

The corresponding press release informs us that the “…latest edition presents the SESAR vision of ATM – a critical element in the future air transport system – and details the development and deployment activities necessary to achieve this vision between now and 2035.” Furthermore, we learn that “Both pragmatic and ambitious in its design, the Plan provides a high level view of what is needed in order to deliver a high-performance aviation system for Europe.”

There is another quotation I would like to share with you.

“The EUROCONTROL Air Traffic Management (ATM) Strategy for the years 2000+ (ATM 2000+ Strategy) has been developed at the request of the Transport Ministers of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), to cater for the forecast increase in European air traffic which will demand a quantum increase in ATM and airspace capacity. The Strategy was adopted by the Ministers at their MATSE/6 meeting on 28 January 2000. The Strategy has been updated in 2003.

The Strategy describes the processes and measures by which the forecast demand may be satisfied while improving aviation safety.”

Comparing these two quotations, originating 15 years apart, one may be justified in sleeping worse and not better upon reading the SESAR JU announcement.


Make no mistake, the current Master Plan has exactly zero news in it compared to the ATM 2000+ Strategy (with the possible exception of the remote tower concept that is totally irrelevant from an ATM performance perspective)… Yes, we have the Single European Sky (basically a failure so far) and the Functional Airspace Blocks which are probably the biggest impediment to repairing European ATM. What we do not have any more is a EUROCONTROL that would focus the expertise needed to really make things happen.

It is an open secret that in the 15 years since ATM2000+ no real structural change and certainly no paradigm change has come to the European ATM system. That it has not collapsed completely is due solely to the fact that traffic demand has not grown as expected but the powers that be did not use this welcome respite to put in the changes described already in ATM2000+.

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A Square is not a Circle

On 11/11/2015, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

QuestionOne of the most boring features of air traffic management conferences are the reports from ANSPs, SESAR, even the European Commission which, year after year, tell those who come to listen that everything is fine, all the projects are on track and things could not be brighter. We even get news of a few small scale trials like 4D trajectory and the like… few people seem to notice, or possibly even care, that the word “initial” is often there in front of the functionality in question.

This is the magic word, past versions were “evolution not revolution”, “learn to walk before you run” and so on. In fact this little word signifies the very thing the new ATM development trajectory was supposed to eliminate: the lowest common denominator that could be agreed and this may in fact be a far cry from what the original concept of operations envisaged.

The other aspect that does not seem to bother people are the dates attached to all but the simplest developments. Looking into EU Regulation No. 716/2014 which establishes the Pilot Common Project supporting the implementation of the European Air Traffic Management Master Plan reveals a few things we all should be worried about.

The list of ATM functionalities that the PCP contains gives a clue already at how things have been put upside down since the concept of operations for SESAR was written.

Just as a reminder, the concept of System Wide Information Management (SWIM) was put into SESAR mainly because an earlier study had shown clearly that the majority of problems experienced by users were a direct result of or closely related to inferior management of the sea of information aviation stakeholders create and consume, or would, if the environment was better organized. It was also recognized that without going away from the legacy message based solutions, and replacing them by the kind of information sharing SWIM introduces, none of the advanced ATM concepts would be able to work properly. SWIM was developed to address the problems and the off-the-shelf technology required has been around for more than ten years. Now look at Regulation 716/2014 and lo and behold, the date for implementing an INITIAL version of SWIM is 2025!

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Budapest 2.0: HungaroControl to Participate in an International Research & Development Programme

On 29/12/2014, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

The results of the most recent technological developments are being tested in simulations and actual flights in the framework of the Budapest 2.0 project, organised by a large international collaboration. The programme, scheduled to last for two years, will demonstrate the arrival and departure procedures of the Budapest terminal approach airspace, the remote tower control solution and the extension of the solution that supports continuous descent approach in the Hungarian airspace. The project budget is nearly EUR 2.5 million, 50 percent of which is provided by the European Union’s Single European Sky (SES) programme through its SESAR Joint Undertaking tender.

In the framework of the Budapest 2.0 project, a six-member international consortium is setting up a demonstration environment for the purpose of testing and demonstrating the air navigation developments closely related to the SESAR research and development programme. The aim of the project is to present the technological innovations and procedures that specifically improve the operations of low- and medium-traffic airports, as they help to schedule aircraft arrivals more efficiently, to reduce the number of delayed flights, more economically operate planes and reduce the environmental impact.

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The saga of air/ground digital link and CPDLC continues

On 23/06/2014, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

datalinkThis story really started almost two decades ago when Lufthansa rung the alarm bells about the impending saturation of ACARS frequencies and the potential loss of revenue this would entail due to the operational hinder that would arise when aircraft would no longer be able to communicate reliably with their AOC. On the air traffic management side of the business alarm bells, though less insistent, were also ringing forecasting the day when controllers would no longer be able to communicate with aircraft in their sector due to congestion on the voice frequencies.

For airline operational communications a new system with higher bandwidth and more speed appeared to be the solution. For air traffic controllers a much more radical solution was put forward in the form Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) which is replacing voice comms with text messaging initially for none time critical messages, thereby freeing up the voice channels, ending congestion. For those not familiar with CPDLC, please do not imagine this as something where the controller is required to type away furiously creating the clearances he or she wants to send to the aircraft. The messages to be used are “pre-cooked” in the system and the controller only selects the one he or she needs and adds parts as necessary (e.g. the numbers for a level clearance). In practice this works quite well and the corresponding user interface supports the whole operation keeping workload at a minimum.

I will not go into the details of how hard it was to agree the message set (you can read more about the history of CPDLC here), let it be enough to say that after a long and arduous process all the agreements were in place making sure that Europe and the United States would be fully interoperable when it came to implementing the new feature.

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Europe secures future of air traffic management through extension of SESAR Joint Undertaking

On 16/06/2014, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

On 16 June 2014 the Council of Ministers of the European Union adopted the extension of the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) Joint Undertaking (SJU). This decision was taken in recognition of the need to foster Research and Innovation (R&I) on Air Traffic Management (ATM) beyond the organisation’s original mandate of 2016, as well as in appreciation of the SESAR partnership’s ability to respond to evolving business needs and fast track technological and operational improvements in Europe’s ATM system.

Established in 2007 by Council Regulation 219/2007 for a period up to December 2016, the SESAR Joint Undertaking is one of the European Union’s most successful public-private partnerships, whereby the entire European ATM sector engages in a single European effort to overcome the past defragmented approach to R&I in the area of ATM. As the technological pillar of the Single European Sky (SES), the SESAR Programme has a critical role to play in developing the necessary technologies and operational procedures to make European air travel more cost efficient, environmentally friendly and safer.

“The SESAR Joint Undertaking is a great asset for Europe because it can bring real economic value to the aviation value chain in the context of the Single European Sky. It re-affirms our reputation for innovation and scientific excellence in the global arena. It is also commendable how the SESAR Joint Undertaking has successfully secured the involvement of ATM stakeholders in the development of a modernised ATM system that meets their operational needs,” says João Aguiar Machado, Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE), and Chairman of the SJU Administrative Board.

Notable achievements of the SESAR Programme have been:

• The world’s first flight in four dimensions (3D + time) to enhance flight predictability;

• Remote Tower Services to provide access to remote regions and boost regional economies;

• Extensive toolkits to enhance safety on airport runways;

• Creation of an ATM intranet for the seamless exchange of information and better collaborative decision-making.

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4D flights to make air travel even more predictable

On 20/03/2014, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

Air travel will become even more predictable in the future thanks to the work undertaken within the SESAR Programme to develop and validate initial 4D (i4D) trajectory management – connecting aircraft and ground systems to optimise the aircraft trajectory in three dimensions plus time[1]. Prepared by SESAR members (Airbus, Eurocontrol, Honeywell, Indra, NORACON[2] and Thales), a flight trial going from Toulouse to Copenhagen and then Stockholm, successfully validated the sharing of trajectory information[3] both in ground and airborne operations, and the capability of the aircraft to comply with time constraints in the en-route and approach phases of the flight. The flight trial further confirmed that i4D offers important safety and environmental gains, as well as increased flight predictability and overall network efficiency.


“Through this i4D flight trial, SESAR members are showing that the Programme’s research and development can bring about immediate and positive impact to Europe’s Air Traffic Management (ATM) system. This wouldn’t have been possible without the operational support and validation by pilots and air traffic controllers, who are making 4D trajectory management a reality. Thanks to their hard work, passengers will experience an enhanced travel experience, which is an important goal of the SESAR Programme,” says Claude Chêne, Executive Director of the SESAR Joint Undertaking.

Moving towards deployment

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Florian Guillermet nominated as new Executive Director of the SESAR Joint Undertaking

On 25/02/2014, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

The SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU) has just announced that Florian Guillermet, Deputy Executive Director of the SJU, has been selected for the position of Executive Director. Florian’s appointment comes at a time when the SJU and its members prepare for the next phase of SESAR, Europe’s ambitious research and development (R&D) programme on Air Traffic Management (ATM).

Florian Guillermet (right) with RW Editor Steve Zerkowitz

Florian Guillermet (right) with Roger-Wilco Editor Steve Zerkowitz at ATC Global 2011

Commenting on his appointment, Florian said: “SESAR is Europe’s most ambitious research and development programme and I am extremely honoured to have been chosen to steer the programme.”

Since joining the SJU in 2008, Florian has spearheaded major strategic and operational shifts across SESAR’s R&D process. His expertise and knowledge of ATM and the SESAR Programme will be key as the programme continues to develop a growing number of SESAR solutions, mature enough to be taken on board by the industry.

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Flight Object-ion

On 28/07/2013, in SESAR's Palace, by traj man

SESAR projects are defining their operational concepts based on a single shared flight object (FO). It is not doubted the benefits of data sharing but is it right to build a network of tightly–coupled servers hosted across multiple ANSPs just to share data?

For some, maintaining and sharing a single flight object to be used by all European stakeholders has been promoted as a good thing. However, this architecture introduces tight coupling between organisations, both at technical and organisational levels.


The interoperability objective should be to share data while maintaining loose coupling between ANSPs. Indeed, SOA, which is a set of principles intended to address this goal, has been proposed as a solution by some, SWIM has been defined as a service oriented architecture…however the talk is always of a single flight object instead of flight information services. Is it a good idea to create a single object based representation of a flight, to be used by all stakeholders and yet provided, managed, updated and shared by a one organisation on behalf of all others? This architecture puts new responsibilities on ANSPs and requires development of a new network of “flight object servers” using a bespoke middleware.

The alternative is to maintain the decoupling boundaries between ANSPs and to have consistent local flight data and trajectories achieved through data sharing (information services). Standard data sharing technologies could be employed without burdening ANSPs to consolidate and unify the data on a European scale. The focus should be on having consistency of data and not about a single source of data.

The selected European system-of-systems architecture for sharing flight data through a single flight object could prove a risk for SESAR and the RBT concept, and alternatives do not seem to be addressed, no R&D or evaluation of alternative architectures .

Now it is becoming clear that a single flight object cannot fulfil all needs. An ANSP cannot be expected to maintain the flight object with data on the behalf of others for which they have no interest themselves, or to be handcuffed to the data format or functionality of the lowest common denominator – It is impossible to think that all ANSPs will evolve their systems and concepts in parallel. SESAR Interoperability validation exercises will involve ANSPs who use systems from the same industrial partner, and therefore a common flight object implementation. Is this really interoperability??

One of the objectives of SESAR was to reduce ANSP costs, however it is difficult to see how the extra burden of consolidating and maintaining flight data & trajectory across the whole European area would not increase an ANSP’s costs. Maybe having this closed architecture tied to a bespoke ATM middleware is good for the big two European ATM system suppliers, but is this really a good thing for European interoperability, or for ANSPs? Isn’t this closed architecture killing innovation and competition? Other industries (banking, commerce, rail..) use open and off-the-shelf solutions, rather than developing bespoke solutions tied to a single supplier. Should European ATM do the same?


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