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Best papers - 2007



This paper describes an operational concept that enables increased airport and airspace capacity through the integration of Flight Management System (FMS) Required Navigation Performance (RNP) capabilities and ground based air traffic management (ATM) automation tools. The concept applies to en route and terminal area operations and uses voice or data link for air/ground communications. This concept is technically feasible for implementation in the 2008-2012 timeframe in a voice environment, assuming that advanced automation tools currently under development are deployed by Air Traffic Service Providers. This near-term step is a key element in the transition to trajectory-based operations in the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS), as it will reduce the need for tactical vectoring. The paper describes the operating concept in detail for arrival management, and provides an analysis of several key performance parameters as they influence the arrival management process. The concept is applied to operations in the Houston airport area, and arrivals into Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) are modeled using a fast-time performance modeling approach. The results that are presented illustrate the influence of path and speed discretization, wind, trajectory prediction and navigation performance on delivery accuracy and delay in the arrival process.

Prediction of Operational Failure States at Airports by Means of Stochastic Transition Matrices

The paper presents a new methodology to predict non-nominal system states at airports with the help of stochastic transition matrices. These matrices are formed by constant monitoring of operational parameters at airports which reveal the statistical linkage between failure events. Once transition matrices have "learned" from these observations, they can be used to predict failure states from any given starting condition. Moreover, they can also be applied in reverse direction for diagnostic analyses. This methodology is a basis for future decision support tools and clearly aims to ensure a more efficient handling of critical events at airports. The concept of probabilistic failure prediction and diagnosis with transition matrices is introduced and outlined in the paper. Moreover, first results of its application to a model airport system are shown as well as its potential future role in Total Airport Management (TAM) concepts.

Airspace configuration using air traffic complexity metrics

Flow regulation is a critical process in air traffic management, ensuring that the incoming traffic does not exceed the ability of air traffic controllers to handle it safely and efficiently. Currently, the european Flow Management Positions (FMP) use flight counts and sector capacities to assess the traffic load and build predicted opening schemes. These schemes, made of predefined airspace configurations, are used to detect potential overloads. Some past research undertaken at the Global Optimization Laboratory led to think that this process was not grounded on solid scientific notions, as concerns the quantification of the controllers workload. Consequently, it is proposed to stop using flight counts and sector capacities to predict this workload, and to use relevant air traffic complexity metrics instead. Another proposal is to explore all the possible combinations of elementary sectors, instead of the small subset of pre-defined configurations currently being used, so as to offer the maximum capacity to the incoming traffic. In previous works, we assessed the relevance of complexity metrics by comparing their relative influence on the sector status prediction (merged, manned, or split) made by a neural network. Real sector statuses issued from filed configurations were used to train the neural network. A fairly simple relationship between the relevant metrics and the sector status was found. The main contribution of this paper is to use the relevant metrics and the sector status prediction to build realistic airspace configurations. The computed configurations are compared to the actual configurations archived by the ATC centers, and to the FMP opening schemes.


Advanced noise abatement approach procedures incorporating Continuous Descent Approach, Precision Area Navigation and Low Power/Low Drag elements have been developed for a regional UK airport in partnership between academia and key stakeholders. The procedures were designed for a wide variety of aircraft types and equipages using a combination of advanced academic research tools, industry simulators and stakeholder input. Interactions between airspace constraints and procedure design were found to be critical. Flight trials of the procedures have demonstrated significant environmental benefits compared to non-trial flights: 3-6 dBA peak noise reductions and 10-20% fuel burn/emissions reductions have been observed. However, the importance of aircraft automation level, air traffic control coordination and the need for effective environmental performance metrics have been highlighted.

Air navigation service charges in Europe

This paper analyzes benefits and pitfalls of the current European charging scheme from the perspective of Air Navigation Service Providers, airspace users and passengers following the introduction of the European Commission Regulation 1794/2006 laying down a common charging scheme for air navigation services.


To increase the capacity, safety, efficiency, quality, and affordability of air transportation systems require potentially revolutionary transformations. These transformations may involve system-wide changes and innovations as well as changes to individual components within the system. All of these changes require a robust modeling and simulation tool that can evaluate overall collective emergent system performance arising from individual components’ behavior as proposed in innovative ATM concepts. This paper proposes agent-based modeling and simulation (ABMS), including computational human performance models, as a conceptual framework and a simulation platform for a priori computational analysis method of predicting the impact of innovative ATM concepts. A specific test case of analyzing aircraft arrivals into LAX using a variety of spacing techniques was examined throughout as a demonstration, and as an opportunity to compare simulation predictions about current system behavior to available measures. The results indicate that ABMS has the capability to reveal unexpected emergent behaviors and can be used to investigate the causes of and potential solutions to them.


Several developments in the technologies supporting air traffic management (ATM) such as digital communication and improved positioning accuracy for aircraft, have enabled consideration of new organizational and functional operations. One such consideration is a modification of the standard air traffic control team to include a mutli-sector planner (MSP) position. This MSP is being investigated in several research and field studies both in Europe and in the U.S. The feasibility and effectiveness of two of these concept variations was investigated in the current study. The experiment consisted of a pair of one-week human—n-the-loop studies in which the two concepts (Multi-D, in which multiple R-sides are supported by a single D side, and Area Flow, in which the MSP manages flow through their target sector by coordinating with adjacent MSPS., were tested separately with two different 5-person teams, A baseline condition which assumed traditional radar-data roles but with access to advanced decision support tools was also run. Overall, the data suggest feasibility of both variations in the MSP. Workload was manageable for the MSP operations. Area flow operations were found to coordinated with advanced air traffic operations concepts and were shown to be acceptable to the controllers (both R and D side).

Incremental, Probabilistic Decision Making for En Route Traffic Management

En route airspace congestion, often due to convective weather, causes system-wide delays and disruption in the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS). Today’s methods for managing congestion are mostly manual, based on uncertain forecasts of weather and traffic demand, and often involve rerouting or delaying entire flows of aircraft. A new, incremental decision-making approach is proposed, in which prediction uncertainty is explicitly used to develop effective and efficient congestion resolution actions. Decisions are made based on a quantitative evaluation of the expected delay cost distribution, and resolution actions are targeted at specific flights, rather than flows. A massively-parallel simulation of the proposed method has been developed, and results for an operational-scale congestion problem are presented.


The need to benchmark air traffic management performance, predict future performance, and improve our understanding or air traffic operations has created a growing literature on the statistical modeling of delays in the National Airspace System (NAS). This paper contributes to that literature in three distinct ways. First we introduce an innovative delay metric that avoids the distortions created by schedule padding and can be decomposed into different flight phase components. Second, we examine closely how daily variation in weather-impacted traffic affects operational performance. Third, we consider the impacts of weather forecast errors as well as realized weather. Our results demonstrate the value of the new delay metric, show that simple daily averaging adequately captures the effect of weather-impacted traffic, and reveal that false-positive weather forecast errors are a significant source of delay in the NAS.


If the Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS) identifies an imminent collision, it issues a Resolution Advisory (RA). The RA takes precedence of Air Traffic Control (ATC) instructions and the air traffic controller should not interfere with the according collision avoidance manoeuvre. To date, the only source of information for the controller to know about the RA is the pilot report. However, pilot reports of RAs are often incomplete, delayed, incorrect or even missing. This introduces ambiguity about tasks and responsibilities of pilots and controllers. One option to address this problem consists in downlinking RAs for display at the controller working position (CWP). The present paper gives an overview of EUROCONTROL’s Feasibility of RA Downlink Study (FARADS) and describes the results of one of the experiments that have been conducted to determine the impact of RA downlink on the controller’s performance, situational awareness and workload. The results of the experiment point to operational benefits of RA downlink. Contradictory clearances to aircraft involved in an RA were exclusively observed in the absence of RA downlink. Controllers’ recollection of RA events caused by pilot or controller error was superior if RA downlink was provided. Furthermore, there was no evidence for negative effects of RA downlink, such as cognitive tunnelling on the RA event and a lower ability to separate other traffic in the sector.

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