The SESAR 2020 PJ02 - EARTH project aims to deliver operational and technical improvements to enhance infrastructure and increase traffic throughput while preserving safety and the environment. More specifically, it focuses on improving runway and airport throughput, considering wake vortex, weather, the environment and noise, for different levels of traffic demand, future aircraft capabilities and airport configurations.
Challenges and benefits
Unless new sources of capacity are added to Europe’s increasingly capacity-constrained hubs, it will not be possible to accommodate up to 1.9 million flights by 2035, resulting in about 120 million passengers being unable to fly. This may lead to delays for passengers, time wasted in the air and on the ground, fuel being unnecessarily burnt and more carbon dioxide and other noxious and greenhouse-gas forming emissions being released into the atmosphere. The EARTH project can bring real improvements to address these issues and to reduce the constraints faced by aircraft operators. Even if an airport does not need additional capacity, there are real efficiency gains, such as improving runway throughput during peak periods of operation.
There is a strong link between wake vortex, runway occupancy, enhanced approach procedures and minimum radar separation. Combining these concepts will optimise the approach sequence. By improving wake separation, reducing surveillance minima and predicting accurate runway occupancy, it will be possible to deliver an enhanced sequence with reduced separation distances, optimising runway throughput.
EUROCONTROL is leading on four sub-projects. Taken together, these will provide core concepts and technologies that will help airports increase the number of aircraft airports can manage on their busy runways and taxiways, safely, efficiently and in an environmentally responsible way. We bring about and help mature technological advances in these separate areas, then integrate them so that they can be seamlessly combined within a single human-machine interface (HMI), giving the controller an efficient and user-friendly way to deliver safe and reduced separation, irrespective of the concept, runway configuration or aircraft equipage.
Once validated, concept designs will be handed over to the industry for adoption.
Whilst many of the concepts supporting this project are not planned for deployment before 2025, some elements have already been deployed. These include Time-Based Separation (TBS) at London Heathrow (LHR) and RECAT EU and reduced wake separation, at the Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport.
The implementation at the CDG airport of RECAT-EU procedures and at the LHR airport of TBS operations is a direct result of SESAR 1 development and validation. These two operational procedures are among the earliest and most significant operational improvements resulting from the collaboration between partners in SESAR 1.
Results to date
The results of validation activities and the early operational experience of introducing these concepts suggest the gains are substantial, in particular in terms of reduced controller workload, increased traffic on busy runways, resilience of airfield operations during bad weather and reduced recovery times from major disruption .
Some of the most important improvements to European aviation capacity, efficiency and resilience resulting from Single European Sky ATM (SESAR) research can be seen operating today at some of the continent’s busiest airports.
At Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, a more precise aircraft categorisation splits the current ICAO ‘heavy’ and ‘medium’ wake categories into ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ sub-categories and redefines the safe separation distances which can be applied to aircraft on approach. A new ‘super heavy’ wake category fully integrates the Airbus A380 into the European Wake Vortex Re-categorisation (RECAT EU) scheme, removing the need for the ICAO State Letter that currently prescribes the wake separation for following aircraft. A 5-10% increase in runway throughput has already been achieved.
At London/Heathrow (LHR) Airport, time-based separation (TBS) dynamically adjusts the separation distance between arrivals, maintaining the time separation between aircraft at a constant equivalent to the distance separation required in a headwind of 5-7 knots and, in doing so, safely reduces approach separation to recover most of the capacity otherwise lost during strong headwinds. TBS has allowed the air navigation service provider NATS to land 2.9 additional aircraft an hour on strong wind days and cut air traffic flow management delays caused by headwinds by up to 60%.
Surveillance minima tests undertaken at the Vienna Airport, allowing controllers to separate aircraft by less than 2.5 NM, together with more precise runway occupancy management, have shown that runway throughput can be increased by between 10% and 15%. The additional capacity that the reduced separation provides reduces controller workload without any significant added complexity. The support tool used has been tested under strong wind conditions, supporting the controllers’ decision on when to turn aircraft on to final approach, helping them to deliver 55 movements an hour, a large increase on previous throughput measured in these conditions.
PJ.02-01- Wake turbulence separation optimisation
One of the main aims is to develop a final approach delivery tool supporting optimised runway delivery (ORD), allowing the controller to deal with various runway throughput enhancement concepts via a single human machine interface (HMI).
PJ.02-02 - Enhanced arrival procedures
Mitigation of noise and adaptation of wake avoidance procedures through concepts such as multiple runway aiming points and adaptive glide slopes, which move noise into the centre of the airport and take account of wake transport.
PJ.02-03 - Minimum pair separations based on required surveillance performance
Reduction of separation minima is dependent on the availability of accurate aircraft position data, which is related to RSP. The latter could support the reduction of pair-wise separation down to a minimum of two nautical miles (NM) for arrivals on final approach.
PJ.02-05 - Independent rotorcraft operations at the airport
This solution will develop rotorcraft-specific approach procedures.
PJ.02-06 - Improved access into secondary airports in low visibility conditions
This solution will improve access into secondary - small and medium - airports in low visibility conditions through the development of an affordable surveillance solution, for example, remote tower camera-based systems.
PJ.02-08 -Traffic optimisation on single and multiple runway airports
The solution aims to provide air traffic control with an integrated dynamic assistance tool to improve single and multiple runway airport operations by increasing the predictability of runway capacity, optimising runway configuration and optimising arrival and departure spacing.
PJ.02-11 - Enhanced terminal area for efficient curved operations
Using geometric vertical navigation guidance in the terminal manoeuvring area (TMA) will simplify operations by removing the workload associated with barometric and geometric vertical navigation transition, improving the efficiency and predictability of individual operations. In addition, it is expected to improve safety by reducing the rate of missed approaches.
AIRBUS SAS, DEUTSCHES ZENTRUM FUER LUFT-UND RAUMFAHRT EV, LEONARDO - FINMECCANICA SPA, POLSKA AGENCJA ZEGLUGI POWIETRZNEJ, LUFTFARTSVERKET, DASSAULT AVIATION, DIRECTION DES SERVICES DE LA NAVIGATION AERIENNE, ENTIDAD PUBLICA EMPRESARIAL ENAIRE, ENAV SPA, HONEYWELL AEROSPACE, INDRA SISTEMAS, STIFTELSEN SINTEF, NATS (en route) PUBLIC LIMITED COMPANY, SWEDAVIA AB, SKYGUIDE, SA SUISSE POUR LES SERVICES DE LA NAVIGATION AERIENNE CIVILS ET MILITAIRES, THALES AIR SYSTEMS SAS, THALES AVIONICS SAS, STICHTING NATIONAAL LUCHT- EN RUIMTEVAARTLABORATORIUM, AUSTRO CONTROL OSTERREICHISCHE GESELLSCHAFT FUR ZIVILLUFTFAHRT MBH, HEATHROW AIRPORT LIMITED, AVINOR AS, FLUGHAFEN ZURICH AG.
This project has received funding from the SESAR Joint Undertaking under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 731781.