Capacity gains with new ATS system in Karlsruhe

In December 2010, DFS introduced its new air traffic services (ATS) system P1/VAFORIT at the upper area control centre (UAC) in Karlsruhe. The new system has made it possible for the capacity of the airspace to increase by 11 percent.
DFS expects further increases in capacity of five to seven percent annually. Air traffic controllers in Karlsruhe are responsible for most of the upper airspace above Germany. The upper airspace that is still controlled from Munich will soon be transferred to the control centre in Karlsruhe. When this is completed, Karlsruhe UAC will control about 250,000 more flights than they do today.

A significant new feature in the P1/VAFORIT system is the four-dimensional trajectory prediction. An electronic system makes conventional paper flight progress strips obsolete. P1/VAFORIT is thus a paradigm shift in flight data processing and for the air traffic controller's job. Trajectory-based systems provide four-dimensional data about the planned flight paths of all flights relevant to the control centre. These features aid air traffic controllers in anticipating and resolving possible conflicts between aircraft at an early stage. In addition, they increase the accuracy of flight planning which in turn improves punctuality and reduces re-routings.

The new system also allows for the use of Free Route Airspace structures which have been defined as the standard by FABEC (Functional Airspace Block Europe Central). This will make it possible to fly more direct routes and thus allow flights to reach their destinations sooner which also means less environmental impact. Direct routings are being introduced in steps. In June 2011, DFS implemented 35 direct routings. At the moment, a second phase is in place in which DFS is introducing 144 direct routings most of which run through the less complex sectors above eastern Germany where there is less traffic. "Most of the direct routings are available 24 hours a day without any time restrictions," commented Thomas Hoffmann, Head of UAC Karlsruhe. "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. Additionally, further Free Route Airspace structures will be introduced in cooperation with the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre and other FABEC partners in conjunction with the Single European Sky ATM Research Programme (SESAR).

Trajectory-based systems like P1/VAFORIT are the core of the Single European Sky. "The introduction of the P1/VAFORIT system is not just a significant step forward, it is a quantum leap. And from a technological point of view, it has paved the way to SESAR," commented Ralph Riedle, Managing Director Operations at DFS. "The system is key for restructuring airspace. This is why we are going to transfer the control of the upper airspace above Bavaria to Karlsruhe next year. Ninety-five air traffic controllers who control four geographical areas over southeast Germany with about 250,000 aircraft movements will transfer from Munich to Karlsruhe. 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. DFS initiated the project in 1996 together with the Spanish systems developer Indra Sistemas. It is a multinational company which, among other things, is involved in air navigation services technology in Europe and employs 30,000 staff in 40 countries around the world.

The implementation of P1/VAFORIT 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 their technology partner. The goal of collaborating with each other is to improve interoperability between different countries' ATS systems. 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).
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