Environmentally-friendly approach profiles: the challenge for pilots and controllers
Pilots, controllers and scientists are working together to reduce the environmental impact of air traffic in the approach phase of flight by better matching the aircraft operating procedures with those of air traffic management. The recently launched SESAR project DYNCAT (Dynamic Configuration Adjustment in the TMA) is focusing on supporting pilots in configuration management and in the development of greener, more predictable approach profiles. In this interview, project coordinator, Dr. Fethi Abdelmoula from German Aerospace Center (DLR), highlights the challenge of daily operations, the main objectives of and activities planned by the project.
What is the challenge during an approach operation?
During the approach, pilots need to configure the aircraft for landing (extending flaps, slats and landing gear) and reduce speed prior to touch down. Flying an energy-efficient approach profile is really challenging in this phase, and it depends on the skill of pilots to limit noise impact and fuel consumption, while also taking into account restrictions put in place by air traffic control, the remaining distance-to-fly and finally weather conditions, predictions of which are often unavailable on board.
What are the main objectives of the project?
DYNCAT will analyse the existing aircraft operating and air traffic control procedures and propose improvements to on-board and ground procedures. The project will also identify the necessary technological and regulatory changes for improved airborne procedures and will assess the environmental potential of improved operations. Specifically, DYNCAT will focus on optimising the high-lift system actuation for low-noise approaches within the extended terminal manoeuvring area (TMA). It is clear that novel concepts must not compromise safety; on the contrary, a better integration of configuration management into the flight management system is expected to increase system awareness and offer pilots more support. Simulations will enable the assessment of the predictability of the flight with and without the new support functions. This will be done exemplarily for one aircraft type at Zurich Airport, recognising that the results and outcomes of DYNCAT can be adapted to all current airliners and other airport environments.
Which data are used?
The DYNCAT consortium is in a unique position having access to a large set of recordings of actual flight operational data, related air traffic control instructions, weather data and noise measurements representing operations of the Airbus A320 family in Swiss airspace. The A320 family will be taken as reference aircraft due to its large traffic share. The potential environmental benefits achievable through optimised procedures will be quantified through simulations. The availability of real-world operational data and high-fidelity simulation models at the DYNCAT consortium, however, guarantees a high relevance and significance of the expected results. Combining the various data sources, DYNCAT will be able to quantify the real effects and, based on the analysis, identify ways to improve and better harmonise air traffic control and aircraft operating procedures and in doing so the environmental impact (noise, CO2).
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 893568