I-4D Test Flight Has Major Implications For Safety And Efficiencies


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I-4D Test Flight Has Major Implications For Safety And Efficiencies

By Steve Hall

February 25, 2012 - An historic test flight, which took place over Europe, has major implications for improving safety and fuel efficiencies as well as reducing flight times and CO2 emissions. The A320 test aircraft flew from Toulouse to Copenhagen and Stockholm and then back to Toulouse to trial an initial four-dimensional (I-4D) flight operations.

The Initial-4D concept includes four dimensions; lateral, longitudinal, vertical and time. It uses airborne computed predictions in the air traffic ground systems to establish, far in advance, a sequence for all aircraft converging to a merging point in a congested area.  

With I-4D, controllers receive the four-dimensional intent of an aircraft via an ADS-C downlink. They can then ensure that the ground and air expectations are the same by checking, and where necessary up linking, the lateral and vertical path.

Should it be necessary to further constrain the flight at a fix, a time constraint that meets both the ground requirements and is achievable by the aircraft can be coordinated. Once this has been agreed, the aircraft can optimize its profile to fly the path in the most economic and environmental way. 

Once the concept has been refined and approved, aircraft will progress in four dimensions, sharing accurate airborne predictions with the ground systems. It will also be able to meet time constraints at specific waypoints with high precision when the traffic density requires it. 

Mr. Eamonn Brennan, Chief Executive Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said that the I-4D would bring the industry a step closer to its ultimate SESAR goal of full 4D operations, where airlines and Air Navigation Service Providers agree, before the flight, on a 4D trajectory covering the whole flight. 

"This will significantly benefit air traffic in medium to high traffic density areas, thanks to better predictability of air traffic. Better air traffic management will decrease delays and increased punctuality is good for everyone, the passengers, the airliners, the environment and the society," he said. 

This flight trial was the first live demonstration of an initial four-dimensional flight, and a key element of the SESAR program towards 4D trajectory management. It is expected that, subject to successful tests and developments, the first Airbus aircraft with the I-4D capability will be in service around 2018. If everything works smoothly it will be implemented by the industry from 2016 and onwards.
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