ICAO Flight Plan 2012 - a smooth transition

The Network Managers operational units managed the ICAO FPL 2012 switchover in the planned four-day transition period. 43 States successfully migrated to the new 2012 format. 13 States are still receiving the interface support they requested from IFPS. Aircraft operators managed to switch over to the new format with minimal or no disruptions to their operations
The implementation of Amendment 1 to PANS-ATM better known as ICAO FPL 2012 - was arguably the most significant ATM change in recent times. Coordinated modification to all ATC and aircraft operator systems had to be deployed globally and simultaneously.

The ATM world breathes a sigh of relief

EUROCONTROL was requested by ICAOs Paris office to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the 2012 changes in all the 56 States making up the EUR/NAT region.

A joint EUROCONTROL/ICAO EUR Task Force - under the leadership of EUROCONTROL but representing all the States - developed the European implementation policy and its related implementation specifications.

It also coordinated informally with task forces in other regions to ensure, as far as was practical, a consistent, worldwide approach.

The commitment of all members of the Task Force was a significant contributing factor in the success of this endeavour. Thank you very much to you and your colleagues!, wrote Andre Biestmann, DFS Head of ATM Operations & Strategy.

Flight planning in Europe
In Europe, the centralised flight planning services supported by the Network Manager Operations Centre (NMOC) include:

  • checking the detailed flight intentions against the airspace structure with the help of the Integrated Initial Flight Plan Processing System (IFPS)
  • centralising flight plan processing services for all States within the Network Operations area so as to rationalise reception, validation, acceptance and distribution of Repetitive Flight Plan (RPL) and Filed Flight Plan (FPL) data.
  • providing flight data to support ATFM planning, monitoring and slot allocation, as required in the European ATFM concept.

The challenge of the ICAO changes
With the introduction of the ICAO FPL 2012, the changes made to the IFPS system provided all Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) with mitigation against failure by allowing them to revert, at any time, to the old format, should it have been necessary. This was, and remains, an important feature which contributed significantly to the safety case for States served by the IFPS.

The IFPS service also provided ANSPs with the flexibility to migrate their systems in their preferred timeframe, allowing them to make significant savings.

Besides, the NMOC provided, as part of the IFPS functions, a comprehensive set of both testing and training facilities. They also had a Help Desk where innumerable queries were answered during the deployment phase of the project.

The web-based training packages - the 2012 Flight Planning Modifications and the ICAO 2012 Flight Plan Guide - are accessible worldwide for free via the IANS Training Zone and the Network Operations Portal (NOP) as web applications for desktop and mobile devices.

Their usage has been and is still high, with around 50,000 hits in total so far: it is the only place where all the new descriptors introduced by ICAO 2012 are centralised, detailed and explained.

Finally, the guidance material to assist aircraft operators and its quality level were recognised by the Task Force and subsequently adopted by other regions. In turn, it provided practical assistance to aircraft operators globally.

Great projects done by great people
The System Acceptance Test Team, in charge of testing activities, organised seven external Operational Testing Sessions between January and October 2012.

156 participating units, including representatives from AOs, States (among which India, Vietnam, Uganda, Belarus, Kenya, Iran, Hong Kong, Israel, Jordan, Mauritius, to name a few) and CFSPs, took part - involving more than 500 addressees. It was the first time in NMOCs history that participation numbers have been so high.

On switchover day - 15 November 2012 - the IFPU Units manually processed over 8,400 flight plan and associated messages, almost three times the normal level of (invalid) message processing.

Indeed, the IFPU Units analyse the compatibility of requests before the flight plan can be accepted. In normal situations, inconsistencies need to be resolved by manual interventions in about 5% of cases.

The IFPS teams managed to keep the IFPS invalid queues at such a level that airspace users experienced no delay in the manual processing of their flight plans or associated messages. It is a testament to the commitment and professionalism of the IFPS staff, reported Kim Breivik, ICAO FPL 2012 Manager.

The ability to perform these essential preparatory activities in a well coordinated, efficient and cost effective manner was entirely due to the economies of scale, the infrastructure and experience available within the service.

The project required a unique level of coordination and collaboration with the ICAO Regional Office, all EUR States, aircraft operators, service providers and all representative organisations (IATA, IACA, CANSO, etc.) as well as other States and regions around the world.

Unique but not exclusive
The existence of a centralised service, which is unique to the EUR region, provided a clear and consistent platform where the changes could be tested, results compared and misunderstandings highlighted, discussed and resolved in a collaborative and inclusive process.

The IFPS system provided this baseline for European and non-European States and aircraft operators alike.
Press Office


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