Making Portugal’s air traffic management more efficient and sustainable: NAV Portugal introduces TopSky

Wing of a plane passing an ATC tower





The EUROCONTROL Network Manager (NM) and Portugal’s air navigation service provider NAV Portugal have closely cooperated to implement Thales’ TopSky, a modern air traffic control automation system enabling the ANSP to control its en-route, approach and oceanic traffic.

A remarkable success story in terms of fast and efficient implementation, the new system has been fully integrated since the end of November, providing operational staff with innovative tools to handle air traffic safely and efficiently, while minimising environmental impacts.

“TopSky is an important example of air traffic management systems modernisation which will increase resilience and operational performance and minimise the environmental impact of air traffic. The close cooperation between the EUROCONTROL Network Manager and NAV Portugal included a full impact assessment and support with network measures during the implementation phase and has enabled us to manage and minimise the temporary capacity reductions with the very good support of operational stakeholders.”

“Implementing a new ATM system with a substantially different human-machine-interface from the one used for over 20 years is a complex process. NAV Portugal put the new system in place not only in Lisbon ACC but also in the towers of Lisbon, Porto, Faro, Funchal and Cascais. Our goal was not just to modernise the system but to cause the least possible disruption to an industry that is still recovering from its biggest crisis. With the help of EUROCONTROL NM, national civil and military authorities, aircraft operators, COOPANS partners and above all the commitment of all NAV staff, implementing TopSky in a short period of 6 weeks was, without a doubt, a challenge won.”

Carlos Bettencourt Reis Director NAV Portugal

In every transition to a new ATM system the safety of air traffic and consequently, the safety of crew and passengers is the number one priority. Air traffic controllers need to be able to handle air traffic safely as they start using a new system with new functionalities and features. In NAV Portugal’s case, ATC sector capacities had to be reduced for a period of six weeks (an approximate 30% reduction during the first two weeks), with gradual increases every week to limit the impact on the airspace users.

To best support the transition, the EUROCONTROL NM undertook a full impact assessment, including network measures to optimise capacity and demand balancing during the transition. NM organised the support from other ANSPs, aircraft operators and other partners to enable the implementation of network measures focusing also on minimising the environmental impact by limiting route extensions and level capping. As traffic had to be comprehensively managed, NAV Portugal worked with NM, slot coordinators, airports and airlines to reduce the number of slots and consequently, the pressure on specific sectors during the first two weeks. With the support of NM and the national air navigation service providers, overflights were rerouted towards Morocco, Spain and France where possible. NAV Portugal maximised the numbers of staff on duty every day to cushion the lack of capacity and keep as many sectors open as possible to provide for as much capacity as possible under the circumstances.

Through the combination of local and network expertise and no significant technical issues arising throughout the implementation process, NAV Portugal successfully managed to deliver on the very ambitious six week transition plan they had set gradually increased capacities. The transition had been under preparation for over two years.

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