Flight Object

Written by: Isabel Franke-Chaudet
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The path to unlocking European airspace

At the core of the air traffic management system, Flight Data Processing (FDP) platforms provide a complete real-time picture of air traffic with accurate prediction of upcoming events, enabling controllers to plan flight paths further in advance.

When aircraft cross borders in the sky those systems need to be able to talk to each other. In today's patchwork of systems and borders, many cannot. So, cross-border cooperation of FDP systems is a fundamental requirement for air traffic management modernisation in the Single European Sky. Although this has been recognised by ANSPs, it involves major changes to the FDP system and requires a concerted approach. It has recently come into focus through the Flight Object (FO) concept, with its inclusion in the Pilot Common Project (under SWIM) and a due date for operation across Europe of January 2025. Nevertheless, in these days of cost pressure, ANSPs will not make an early investment unless the early stages are at least cost neutral.

Proposed deployment roadmap

Helios has been working with air navigation service providers (ANSPs) across Europe as well as their industry partners to develop a roadmap for Flight Object deployment. The concept necessitates a high level of coordination and synchronization between different stakeholders. The team undertook a Europe-wide systems survey and assessed different deployment options, considering (amongst other criteria) the business case for ANSPs and the overall network.

The study (partly funded by INEA) showed that a pragmatic approach can be taken, minimizing costs for ANSPs, by allowing clusters of ANSPs to move at a different pace, but nevertheless maintaining a focus on achieving a step change in FDP capability throughout Europe over the next 10 years. This step change will enable the development of future concepts, such as trajectory based operation and free-routing that will finally deliver real benefits.

The roadmap is expected to be used as a guideline for coordinated FO deployment and decision making. However it will be important to keep an eye on ongoing developments to ensure the roadmap remains practical and relevant.

For further information contact Isabel Franke-Chaudet.

The Pilot Common Project (PCP) identifies six ATM functionalities:

  1. Extended Arrival Management and Performance Based Navigation in the High Density Terminal Manoeuvring Areas
  2. Airport Integration and Throughput
  3. Flexible Airspace Management and Free Route
  4. Network Collaborative Management
  5. Initial System Wide Information Management (iSWIM)
  6. Initial Trajectory Information Sharing

The deployment of these six ATM functionalities is mandatory according to Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 716/2014 of 27 June 2014.

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