German air navigation service provider Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH (DFS) introduced a P1/VAFORIT air traffic services (ATS) system at the upper area control centre (UAC) in Karlsruhe in December 2010. Since then, the capacity of the airspace has increased by 11% and DFS expects further increases of 5% to 7% annually.
Air traffic controllers in Karlsruhe are responsible for most of the upper airspace above Germany and a transfer of the airspace still controlled in Munich is expected soon, giving Karlsruhe UAC control of an additional 250,000 flights.
A significant feature of the P1/VAFORIT system is its four-dimensional trajectory prediction, which provides data about the planned flight paths of all flights relevant to the control centre. It allows air traffic controllers to more easily anticipate and resolve potential conflicts between aircraft at an earlier stage and an increase in the accuracy of flight planning in turn improves punctuality and reduces re-routings.
The new system also allows for the use of Free Route Airspace (FRA) structures, which have been defined as the standard by Functional Airspace Block Europe Central (FABEC). This was agreed by the Ministers of Transport and high-level military representatives from Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland and is designed to organise air traffic management irrespective of national borders. FABEC allows aircraft to fly more direct routings, decreasing flight duration and potentially having less of an environmental impact. DFS had implemented 35 direct routings by June last year and more will be introduced gradually with a second phase currently under way for a further 144 above eastern Germany where there is less traffic.
Thomas Hoffman, Head of UAC Karlsruhe, said: “Most of the direct routings are available 24 hours a day without any time restrictions. Flight time, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions have been reduced. The potential annual benefits expected for phase one amount to about 1,450 hours of flying time, 4,400 tonnes of fuel, 14,000 tonnes of CO2 and 60 tonnes of nitrogen oxides. With phase two in place, we expect to save 2,900 hours of flying time and 8,800 tonnes of fuel per year.”
The third and fourth phases are already being planned and further FRA structures will be introduced in cooperation with Maastricht UAC and other FABEC partners in conjunction with the Single European Sky ATM Research Programme (SESAR).
Trajectory-based systems such as the P1/VAFORIT are the core of the programme, DFS claims. Ralph Riedle, the company’s Managing Director of Operations, commented: “The introduction of the P1/VAFORIT system is not just a significant step forward, it is a quantum leap.
The system is key for restructuring airspace. That is why we are going to transfer the control of the upper airspace above Bavaria to Karlsruhe next year.”
In total, 95 air traffic controllers in charge of four geographical areas over south-east Germany, with about 250,000 aircraft movement, will transfer from Munich to Karlsruhe. According to Mr Riedle: “This will ensure that capacity keeps pace with the ever-growing amount of air traffic.”
The P1/VAFORIT system is the result of years of development and programming work that started in 1996 between DFS and Spanish systems developer Indra Sistemas.
The implementation of the system is part of the multinational interoperability Through European Collaboration (iTEC) between DFS and its counterparts in the UK and Spain, NATS and AENA, along with Indra as its technology partner. The ultimate goal of collaboration is to improve interoperability between ATS systems in different countries.
P1/VAFORIT is the first in a new generation of 4D trajectory-based systems by DFS and defines the initial functionalities of the iTEC ATS system called iCAS (iTEC Centre Automation System).