The punctuality and capacity of an airport can be improved and increased by giving pilots early information of their expected arrival time.
Efficiency is very important in the air transport industry, because it has both environmental and economic benefits. The greater the predictability of air traffic, the less aircraft need to manoeuver which leads to inefficiency, which often leads to delays and knock-on effects for following traffic, including increased fuel consumption. As part of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) project, NLR assessed whether predictability could be improved by providing pilots approaching Amsterdam Airport Schiphol with fixed flight speeds. Simulations completed in 2012 revealed that this would indeed result in more predictable traffic flows.
This study of smarter arrival management (AMAN) applies for all airports, but is especially relevant for Schiphol. Dutch airspace is small, which means Air Traffic Control the Netherlands (LVNL) only contacts arriving aircraft when they have already begun to make their descent over Belgium or Germany. In most instances, it is only then that the anticipated arrival time of the aircraft becomes clear. But there may also be other aircraft waiting to use the same runway at that time, which may hamper efficiency.
One possible solution would be a data link between LVNL and Eurocontrol’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) in Limburg, which controls air traffic over most of Northern Europe. Based on the characteristics of the approaching aircraft, its flight schedule and the meteorological conditions, LVNL could relay information to aircraft via MUAC, stipulating preferred speed before they enter Dutch airspace.
To make this test possible, LVNL’s next generation AMAN was tested using NLR’s NARSIM simulator. The simulation was based on scenarios of heavy air traffic that had actually occurred, with dozens of flights approaching every hour. So-called pseudo-pilots played their real alter-egos, and the roles of LVNL and MUAC staff were also simulated. The study revealed that this method offered a better means of precisely stipulating the arrival of flights at Schiphol. This broadening of the planning horizon will not only benefit Schiphol, but also other European mainports.
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