Airbus Takes Air Traffic Management to the Fourth Dimension

Supports partnership for more efficiency in European airspace.

10 February 2012 The world’s first flight using a four dimensional optimized and upgraded Air Traffic Management (ATM) technology has taken place with Airbus’ dedicated A320 test aircraft flying from Toulouse to Copenhagen and Stockholm. The project is called I-4D (Initial-4D).

The main benefits of I-4D are a significant reduction of fuel burn and C02 emissions, in line with SESAR*’s target to reduce the environmental impact per flight by ten percent, a decrease of delays and therefore shorter and smoother flights for passengers.

This flight test offers a concrete solution towards improving the existing European system which is reaching its capacity limit. It is a world premiere in the ongoing transformation of today’s air traffic management system.

Once proven and industrialized, it will allow aircraft to plan and fly an optimized and efficient profile without any need for the controllers to provide any vectoring instruction. This will bring better predictability of the traffic flows and facilitate Continuous Descent Operations into airports. As a result, aircraft flying in a holding pattern will be notably reduced.

I-4D trajectory management relies on an aircraft function that predicts and transmits data to the ground enabling the aircraft to accurately fly a trajectory after coordination with the ground systems. This is called a 4D-trajectory as it is described in three dimensions (lateral, longitudinal and vertical) and it includes one target time at a specific merging point (time as the fourth dimension).

I-4D is the first step in developing one of the essential pillars of the SESAR programme: conciliating the increasing traffic density with the efficiency of flights. It is the result of several months of collaboration between SESAR partners.

One of Airbus’ key roles has been to test the upgraded flight management (Navigation) and communication systems with each other and to integrate them into the real aircraft architecture.

More flight trials and simulations are planned in 2012 and 2013. The first I-4D operation is planned in Europe from 2018 onwards.

About Initial-4D

Operational partners: Airbus, EUROCONTROL’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) and NORACON (1)

Ground Industry: Indra and Thales ATM

Airborne Industry: Honeywell, Thales Avionics and Airbus

* About SESAR

The SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) joint undertaking is a public-private partnership created to provide improved control of the aircraft flying the skies of Europe, prevent crippling congestion and reduce the overall environmental impact of air transport. I4D is a project in this broad programme to achieve the goals of Sesar.

Airbus is a major contributor to all activities, and is leading the aircraft work package that defines onboard solutions to meet operational improvement targets identified in the SESAR master plan.

(1) NORACON is a consortium of eight air navigation service providers: Austro Control and the North European ANS Providers (NEAP), Avinor (Norway), EANS (Estonia), Finavia (Finland), IAA (Ireland), ISAVIA (Iceland), LFV (Sweden) and Naviair (DK).  LFV and Naviair will participate in the I-4D flight trial.