TITAN Kicks-off its “Integration in the Air Transport System” and Holds Fourth Progress Meeting

On 31/01/2012, in TITAN, by steve

The EC 7th Framework Program project TITAN is slowly approaching the final leg of its exciting three year circuit looking at improving the aircraft turnaround process. The TITAN partners gathered in Madrid, Spain, on 14-15 December to review progress and to kick-off WP6. I will come back on the significance of this work-package in moment.

Participation, as we have grown used to in this project, was very good and SESAR also sent its WP6 (Airport) leader for good measure.

Participants noted that the general economic malaise was also impacting the air transport industry and it was increasingly difficult to get contributions in kind from airlines and even airports as they themselves were increasingly short of resources. Nevertheless the project partners were calling on their network of experts to compensate this unfortunate situation to the maximum extent possible.

Good news came in the form of the realization that based on the outcome of the gaming exercises run in the fall of last year, only minor changes to the TITAN Concept of Operations will be required. This is important as it confirms that the project has been on the right track from the start and is also the key to the longer term stability of the work.

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Low Fare Airlines – ATM Nightmare of the Future?

On 04/07/2011, in Airline corner, by steve

There are two distinct schools of thought about how low fare airlines will evolve in the future. According to departing IATA boss Bisignani talking to Aviation Week, in Europe the model used by the low cost carriers, namely opening new point to point connections to secondary airports, will run out of steam within a year or two with all possible connections spoken for. They will than have to move closer to the model of the legacy carriers which is built more on a network of connecting flights. And higher costs. Though he did not say this, but one can almost hear the silent wish: and they will fade away.

In the same edition of Aviation Week, Pierre Sparaco quotes a study from York Aviation which predicts that by 2020 low cost carriers will increase their point-to-point market share in Europe to 60 % and the overall traffic share to 53 % with further growth a near certainty. This optimistic outlook is based on the clearly identified preference of large numbers of passengers for no frills, low cost service that is unlikely to wane in the coming years. The impact of low fares is bigger in Europe than in the US because there fares had been lower to begin with.

With most hub airports, homes to the legacy carriers, reaching their capacity and the chances of building new runways scant, competition from their low fare brethren will be the least of the problems legacy airlines will be facing when contemplating growth.

A white paper published by the EC recently clearly stated that capping traffic was not an option in the future and of course this bodes well for those able to meet increasing demand. Suddenly, flying to less constrained smaller airports will look even more attractive once the hubs get truly saturated… as they soon will do.

Members of the European Low Fare Airlines Association (ELFAA) carry more than 150 million passengers per year and York Aviation forecasts say their seat-miles offered will grow by 72 % by 2020. That is a lot of airplanes whichever way you count it.

Regardless of what Bisignani may be hoping for in my view this latter type of future is the more likely scenario.

If this is indeed true, the implications for air traffic management can be profound.

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SESAR at ATC Global 2011 – Connecting vision with reality

On 09/03/2011, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

Roger-Wilco was given a special opportunity to interview SESAR’s Chief Program Officer on the occasion of ATC Global 2011 and in particular in connection with SESAR Release 1, being presented as the most important SESAR deliverable for the year.

Florian Guillermet talks to editor Steve Zerkowitz.

Roger-Wilco: Looking at the details of SESAR Release 1, one sees that this is basically a very big and complex validation exercise. We have seen such things, even if possibly not on this scale, in past programs like EATCHIP and ATM2000+.Regrettably, not much came from those… What is the difference now, what makes everyone confident that this time things will work out better?

Mr. Guillermet: There are three important differences compared with past exercises:

• Clearly defined scope
• Clearly defined time-frame
• Close control by the SJU

Let me explain. The operational concept of SESAR is very ambitious and it can only be achieved if there is a clear focus on what has to be done and in what time frame. The elements of Release 1 have been carefully selected to ensure an initial maturity level that lends itself to development to a pre-industrialization state. This selection process was carefully controlled by the SJU so no pet-projects, be it on an organizational or personal level, were allowed in if they did not meet the agreed, stringent selection criteria.

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Trajectory based operations (TBO) – Still not properly understood in SESAR? Take 2.

On 18/01/2011, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

You may recall that a while ago I had written an article with the same title, expressing concern that this all important element in the SESAR Concept of Operations was apparently still not properly understood by some of the “experts” working on the subject.

Recently another paper dealing with trajectory management crossed my desk and on reading it I started to wonder: have these people not read the CONOPS at all? Mind you, the paper comes from a major SESAR partner who should know better… But apparently they do not.

The paper is entitled “Use of the SESAR RBT in ATM Systems”. RBT in case you did not know stands for Reference Business Trajectory and this is the trajectory that “the airspace user agrees to fly and the ANSP agrees to facilitate” to quote the relevant part of the SESAR Concept of Operations (CONOPS).

The purpose of the paper, by its own admission, is to prompt discussion of the trajectory issues within the SESAR program and in particular to ensure that they are addressed by Work Package B. In other words, the paper is arguing that alongside the RBT, the various other types of trajectories that exist in local systems must also be recognized and treated in SESAR. Since the CONOPS already contains references to all those “other” kinds of trajectories, one cannot but wonder: what do the authors of the paper have in mind? Why would SESAR ignore the CONOPS references to those other trajectories? Or have the authors not read the CONOPS and are now thinking that they have discovered a gap in that document?

I will not even attempt to figure out this aspect. There are many other elements in the paper that should make anyone familiar with trajectory based operations want to cry.

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Functional Airspace Blocks (FAB) – New category on Roger-Wilco

On 03/01/2011, in FAB News, by steve

FABs may be the highest political priority for the European Commission and they certainly are the source of high flying political statements, but I still do not like them. Why? Well, the idea when it first came up was a good one. At the time, functional fragmentation of air traffic management in Europe was costing airspace users billions and in spite of all the projects being considered, there was little hope for structural reform.

In order to break the logjam, and fully aware that there was no hope for getting the whole of Europe to co-operate and create a single sky, the EC very pragmatically proposed that groups of States get together and create functional airspace blocks (FAB) along the lines of their ATM “interests”, optimizing and aligning procedures and services inside their FAB… This way, the argument went, at least there would be a single sky of sorts inside the FAB and later on the FABs themselves could be harmonized for a truly single European sky.

Pragmatic and logical as the idea may have been, it was not received by the ANSPs with open arms.

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GA and rotorcraft experts scrutinize the SESAR Concept of Operations

On 20/12/2010, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

A working group with a wide representation of operational expertise from the general aviation (GA) and rotorcraft communities commenced a study to enhance the SESAR Concept of Operations (ConOps) from a specific GA and rotorcraft perspective. The task of the group is to integrate GA and rotorcraft specific needs to the SESAR ConOps and to provide necessary complementary guidance material for the SESAR programme. This study follows on from the earlier exercise undertaken to integrate military needs into the SESAR ConOps that was concluded earlier this month. The members of the general aviation and rotorcraft group are Peter Norton (British Helicopter Association), Philippe Rollet (Eurocopter Group), Nigel Talbot (AgustaWestland), Michael Erb (AOPA), Jo Konrad (Microlight Specialists), Julian Scarfe (PPL-IR), René Meier (Europe Airsports).

The group met for the first time from 23 to 25 November at the SJU premises and is expected to deliver its final report in April 2011. Once approved, the updated version of the ConOps including the GA and rotorcraft aspects will be integrated into the relevant SJU programme work packages.

Well, I should be sleeping much better now, except for one thing. This piece of news, which is positive after all, does show up once again that European air traffic management still has not gotten over its silo mentality.

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Trajectory based operations (TBO) – still not properly understood in SESAR?

On 26/11/2010, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

Following Henning’s article about the fate of the original SESAR Concept of Operations (CONOPS), I received a slew of mails basically confirming his point of view and worries. Of particular concern seems to have been a document dealing with trajectory management…

People who had seen this document were of the opinion that it was little more than a reiteration of the legacy way of working with no visible attempt to bring things in line with the spirit, let alone the words, of the CONOPS.

Why am I not surprised?

During the definition phase we had a very hard time getting people to understand why the legacy system, based on managing airspace and massaging individual aircraft left and right had to give way to something else that took a broader view than is the event horizon of a controller working his or her sector.

The concept of trajectory based operations (one of the mainstays of NextGen also) does exactly that. The system is run on the basis of managing trajectories end to end with situational awareness shared by all concerned and hence both strategic and tactical decisions being aligned, safety permitting, with the business intentions of the owners of the trajectories. Airspace is shaped to allow the undistorted inclusion of the trajectories rather than trajectories being bent to fit the airspace.

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Is SESAR doing what the airlines intended?

On 14/10/2010, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

Exclusive interview with Dr. Henning Hartmann

Today we bring you an exclusive interview with Dr. Henning Hartmann, who was, during the SESAR Definition Phase with Lufthansa German Airlines and representing the Airspace Users, he was also the person responsible for the development of the SESAR Concept of Operations (ConOps). He will give us his views on what SESAR is to-day as he sees it and explains why there is cause for some concern.

Henning can you give our readers an impression of what you are feeling today when looking at SESAR and the SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU) as they are now?

In order to understand my arguments concerning today’s situation, I’ll first have a closer look at the situation as it was during the definition phase.

The SESAR Definition Phase was a multi-stakeholder project consisting of 6 milestones which delivered 6 documents each of which was subject to agreement by the stakeholders. The SESAR Concept of Operations was part of deliverable 3, entitled “The ATM Target System”. It was seen as the driving engine of the future system and consequently to some extent the development process of the concept was THE culmination point of the diverging views of the different stakeholders. Obviously, in the end all stakeholders had to compromise to some extent.

Why did these different views come up?

It makes a huge difference “how” a system is operated and since I was representing the Airspace Users, the Airspace Users operational concept vision did not come up just by accident. It was the result of a structured process reflecting all types of Airspace Users.
Before going to the different views, it is essential to understand how the vision of the Airspace Users was constructed: we looked 15 years ahead, we did analyse different passenger segmentation forecasts and their needs and preferences and how the airlines could respond (in terms of the operational context) to those passenger needs.

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Three short questions on the SESAR Concept of Operations answered

On 19/07/2010, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

Over the past year we have published several posts dealing with SESAR in general and the SESAR concept of operations in particular. Some of those posts voiced concerns and uncertainties. In an exclusive interview with Michael Standar, SJU Chief Air Traffic Management, published here in May 2010, we attempted to answer the concerns… to some extent anyway. In SESAR Magazine Issue 3, published in July 2010, Michael now answers three short questions on the Concept of Operations. We bring you the full text as it appeared in SESAR Magazine in the hope of making the ConOps picture a bit clearer.

Michael, where are we today with the SESAR Concept of
Operations (ConOps)?

The first thing to remember is that the SESAR ConOps was set out in the SESAR Definition Phase. In the SJU ConOps storyboard it was structured into three steps to realize the paradigm shift necessary to modernize the European ATM system. In step 1, we move from the current day to time-based operations, focused on better use of existing technology and optimizing communication between ground and airborne equipment. Step 2 introduces trajectory based operations through the 4D trajectory. As new technology is involved, international standardization bodies and ICAO will be engaged. The third and final step will be a fully integrated performance based ATM System supported by System Wide Information Management, SWIM – the intranet of the air. These three steps are not sequential but start in parallel, aiming at gaining early benefits for the air transport sector.

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SESAR Concept of Operations in limbo?

On 28/05/2010, in SESAR's Palace, by cleo

One of the more unfortunate developments during the SESAR definition phase concerned the Concept of Operations. At first what passed as the concept was basically inadequate and it was only after the insistence of the airspace users that work started on what in the end became the SESAR Concept of Operations or CONOPS. Peculiarly, it was never really recognized as an official deliverable although, again on the insistence of the airspace users, a reference was inserted in one of the official deliverables that pointed to the CONOPS as the basis of everything else.

Few definition phase documents generated so much debate and even enmity as the CONOPS. Its novel nature and truly forward looking ideas were hailed by some, hated by others. In the end the released version, which was in many ways a compromise between the parties concerned, still contained enough guidance to ensure that a system built to realize it would do justice to the needs of future air traffic management.

And now we jump to the present where rumors abound about the SESAR concept work once again being in trouble. Last I heard, people seem to be saying that the concept is currently a blank box in the SESAR work and there will be no ops concept on the table until 2011. What about the original CONOPS? The answer is an enigmatic: they do not like it any more.

Click here to read the full article

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