about the complaints of passengers whose flight is delayed or
whose plane is grounded because of bad weather conditions. This
is essentially due to the fact that air traffic increases by 5%
on average each year, causing the number of flights to double every
10 years. It is therefore not surprising that there are problems
in keeping infrastructure abreast of this development - expanding
an airport is not an easy task - and that managing the daily flurry
of movements of hundreds of planes is proving increasingly complex.
In recent years, there have been many improvements to flight control
systems. In contrast, surface movement management systems have become
less efficient. Philippe Martin of Thomson ISR explains that at
most airports only vehicle detection by radar or GPS is automated.
All other aspects of guidance and routing control are entirely managed
by the controller, who only receives basic information. In the strict
sense of the term, the controller must be able to see the position
of planes on apron and on runways.
Given these conditions, it is understandable that dense fog can
paralyse an airport for hours on end.
One architecture, four functions
Fifteen European partners (industry, research bodies, airports
and air traffic authorities) in the DEFAMM project (Demonstration
Facilities for Airport Movement Management) have pooled their efforts
for three years towards improving airport traffic management. Franz
Monzel, project coordinator, points out that the two key words are
safety and efficiency. This double objective can be met by automating
more systems. Under the DEFAMM project, data have therefore been
combined which had previously never been used together, in a coherent
and automated exchange architecture.
The data correspond to the four basic functions of any surface
movement management system: surveillance, control, planning/routing
and guidance. Surveillance involves determining the situation of
traffic at the airport and control detects and regulates conflicts,
e.g. the risk of collisions between aircraft. These two functions
make use of detection systems such as radar or the Global Positioning
System (GPS). Planning and routing means that the controller assigns
to each pilot the ground route to be taken from the runway to the
aircraft's location on the parking apron, and guidance involves
the transmission of information about this route to the pilot.
"Helping" the controllers
The DEFAMM partners first of all analysed professional requirements.
The desired architecture has to be clear and concise. The system
had to be modular so as to be adaptable to various small and large
airport configurations and make it possible to integrate installations
already available. Franz Monzel emphasises that the aim is not to
reduce the number of controllers but to give them the wherewithal
to handle the data available with greater ease and make their decisions
New software, integrating basic data and other elements (supplied
in particular by new detection instruments used when visibility
is poor or by external systems), will determine an individual pilot's
path and submit it to the controller. In all cases, it is the latter
who will take the final decision to confirm or reject the proposed
Tests on apron and new takeoff
There have been real?scale demonstrations of the project at Cologne/Bonn
(Germany), Paris/Orly (France), Braunschweig (Germany) and Bergamo
(Italy). Before studying the full system at Cologne/Bonn, the three
other airports were used as test sites for specific trials and technologies.
At Orly, for instance, a pilot guiding system using switchable signs
was set up. When a controller confirmed the taxiing route suggested
by the system, the data were directly transmitted to display panels
located along the route. Through this method it was possible to
substantially reduce radio communication as well as taxiing time.
Questionnaires and interviews have revealed overall satisfaction
on the part of pilots, controllers and drivers and gave them an
opportunity to comment on the system. By reducing response time,
for instance, it was possible to reduce the safe distance between
aircraft on apron. With regard to guidance operations, it seems
that voice communication cannot be totally eliminated. The automatic
route organisation function met with some resistance from controllers
who believed that they could carry out this task more efficiently
and more rapidly.
According to Cesare Bernabei, scientific officer for the project
at the Directorate?General for Energy and Transport, the various
tests bore out the feasibility of the concept, and this is the principal
success of DEFAMM. Its results have made it possible to focus on
new research. DEFAMM has been the first project on this scale constituting
a first step towards a harmonised management system for European