Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Research paves the way for a 'single European sky'

European air traffic is growing. This is due to many reasons: development of international cooperation, development of tourism (more holidays available, more, shorter, holiday periods during the year), frequency of flights tending to increase (with smaller aircraft) to fight train competition, opening of countries to foreign competition. This increase in traffic causes congestion on airways and on airports, leading to delays or even, as it already happened sometimes, to flight cancellations. All passengers used to travel in Europe have experienced this congestion and associated delays. And the situation is already even worse than it may seem to be, as airlines already take predictable delays into account when planning their schedules.

Another, often less visible, problem related to the traffic level is safety: the number of incidents (and sometimes accidents) tends to increase, mainly at airports, because of the increasing traffic. This situation is expected to still worsen rapidly (5% and 10% increase a year forecast for the next 10 years) leading to a breaking point where the capacity cannot meet the demand, with serious consequences on economical growth.

During the same period, usual air traffic management (ATM) operational concepts are going to reach their limits (e.g. using smaller sectors leads to a too heavy co-ordination workload). So it becomes urgent to find solutions to these problems. Lots of new ATM operational concepts are emerging, but still need to be validated with respect to the benefits they should bring, before being introduced into operational systems. The objective of 'Gate to gate' project was to validate these concepts from the ground segment viewpoint.

"The relentless growth of European air traffic is causing more and more congestion and delays, and as the situation worsens, it might threaten the freedom to travel, and economic growth. Given its complexity and the number of stakeholders, solutions to this problem may only be at the European level, by introducing new concepts into air traffic management and by favouring homogeneity."

Such an assessment justified for the European Commission to propose a set of tasks as part of the Fifth Air Transport programme managed by DG TREN (Key Action "Sustainable Mobility and Inter-modality" of the "Competitive and Sustainable Growth" European Commission programme).

The Gate to gate project had the objective to define an operational concept providing some European safe solutions to these problems, and to perform validation trials on some important aspects of this concept.

While all phases of flights are affected, a seamless gate-to-gate approach will be developed, allowing for a holistic European concept, consistent with European Commission strategy and relevant projects, consistent with Eurocontrol strategy and supported by core-area air traffic service (ATS) providers as bringing solutions to their operational problems.

Thus, with reference to other EC projects, the Gate to gate project will use OCD, EATMP2000+ strategy, and TORCH as the basis for developing the concept. Other projects such as MA-AFAS, NUP and AFAS will also be strongly considered as developing TORCH from the air perspective. Particularly, ASAS procedures will be given a high priority.

A validation strategy will be elaborated using MAEVA guidelines, and will be supported mainly by real-time simulations. These real-time simulations will require ATM ground validation platforms capable of emulating the concepts, and, as required by the EC, coherent with the architectural work developed in the Avenue project.

Among the project's key results were:

- a better understanding of links between proposed changes and resulting operational improvements
- a wide dissemination of new technical means
- the introduction of new concepts urgently required by air traffic
- new standards towards what Europe really needs.

For the typical purposes of an SSS, cited in the first and second objectives, it is necessary to include any functions being developed for Gate to gate. These may comprise new ATC tools, core ATM functions and "second line" functions such as simulation, supervision, recording/replay, etc.

In order to meet the third and fourth objectives, the ATM application functionality that is derived from the operational concept must be described. Although it is often a particular controller tool that is the subject of validation, it is normally necessary to know the complete operational context to interpret correctly the validation results. It is therefore suggested that the "core" ATM functions (e.g. flight data distribution, trajectory prediction, etc.) be described in addition to the ATM tools.

Finally, for the complete context of the validation results, it may also be necessary to document the simulated air-system functions where they impact or constrain the operational concept. This might include, for example, the air-side of the air/ground datalink.

Conversely, functions excluded from the proposed scope are those that do not serve the SSS objectives. Support functions (control and monitoring, recording and replay, etc), except those under development for Gate to gate, are probably not essential to the operational concept and would therefore not be needed in the SSS. Similarly, offline tools (data preparation and analysis), voice communications system, air traffic generator and aircraft simulator might also be excluded.

Reported by

Thales ATM
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