SESAR project shows how aircraft separation methods can increase runway capacity

EUROCONTROL Tower Simulator with time-based separation (TBS)

EUROCONTROL Tower Simulator with time-based separation (TBS) - a SESAR solution that replaces current distance separations with time intervals.

EUROCONTROL successfully completed a SESAR real-time simulation with AustroControl (COOPANS) using an optimal runway delivery tool (ORD) supporting controllers to optimise aircraft separation on final approach.

The simulation also involved the participation of representatives from the SJU IAA, NATS, DSNA, Thales, NAVIAR, LFV, Croatia Control and DFS who participated in briefings and observed exercises.

The simulation combined time-based separation (TBS) - a SESAR solution that replaces current distance separations with time intervals - with RECAT pairwise wake separations under mixed mode runway operations.

Wake recategorisation standards, “RECAT-EU-Pairwise Separations”, which define separation minima for pairs of aircraft, and which can be used with TBS, are expected to be agreed by EASA in 2018. 

The simulation is part of EUROCONTROL’s Leading Optimised Runway Delivery (LORD) activities in support of the SESAR 2020 Research Project “Increased Runway and Airport Throughput” (EARTH). Managed by EUROCONTROL and funded within the framework of the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, the project addresses the challenge faced by airports that are reaching saturation to find ways to safely maximise their runway capacity.

A number of major European airports are also working with EUROCONTROL, validating the SESAR time-based separation (TBS) solution and building confidence for deployment.

The simulations validated controller working methods, ensuring safety while also delivering runway throughput capacity and resilience for both arrival and departure traffic flows. It is expected that the solution will result in runway throughput benefits ranging between 8 and 15% depending on specific airport configurations, traffic mix and different operational and meteorological conditions.

AustroControl's Senior TBS Expert, Günther Borek, said: "The TBS pairwise separation minima are the logical next step for us after the introduction of RECAT. EUROCONTROL’s LORD concept changes the work of final approach controllers during arrival peaks as well as during mixed mode single runway operations significantly to the better.”

Using LORD with the RECAT-EU-Pairwise Separation minima reduces controller workload and increases runway throughput. From all we saw during multiple real-time simulations at EUROCONTROL’s Experimental Centre in Brétigny, controllers easily adapted to the new working methods and they are looking forward to seeing the tool becoming operational," he added.

Olivia Nunez, ATM expert from the SESAR Joint Undertaking, noted the advantages of the tool for supporting controllers in managing the compression of the sequence as aircraft decelerate and stabilise in the last few miles of the approach. She added: “It is implemented in a very intelligent and streamlined way, so that the radar screen is not cluttered, despite the additional information. As a licensed approach controller, I was really impressed.”