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EasyJet’s new A320 first equipped to fly 4D flights
News/ > 2019/ > EasyJet’s new A320 first equipped to fly 4D flights/
EasyJet's newest Airbus A320 is equipped with FANS-C avionics
9 April 2019 EasyJet is the first European airline that will start operating aircraft equipped with avionics capable of enabling 4D initial trajectory sharing, a future navigation concept proposed to help air navigation service providers cope with increases in air traffic volumes.

The 4D trajectory concept is based on the integration of time into the 3D aircraft trajectory. It progressively showing the change in an aircraft’s flight path in real time to controllers and aims to ensure flight on a practically unrestricted, optimum trajectory for as long as possible in exchange for the aircraft being obliged to meet very accurately an arrival time over a designated point. The concept will enable airlines to optimize their aircraft’s trajectories and make traffic flows more fluid and aircraft speed easier to manage, according to Airbus (Figure right).

The introduction of 4D trajectory management is scheduled to happen in two stages. The first is called initial 4D (i4D) and the second is Full 4D. The latter provides the systematic sharing of aircraft trajectory data between various participants in the ATM (Airspace and Traffic Management) process from planning and execution phases. The necessity to divide the process comes from the fact that i4D does not pose much of a technical challenge. This means that positive effects can be achieved with slight upgrade of current equipment. Initial 4D operations consist in giving a time constraint at merging point to each aircraft converging to this point, in order to sequence the traffic for arrival. Typical merging point could be the Initial Approach Fix (IAF) point, in the vicinity of a congested airport. As for the future implementation of the Full 4D stage, this will entail strong impact on Airborne and Ground systems as well as on procedures. >>>
The air-to-ground elements necessary to enable 4D flight operations
>>> Airbus has completed the delivery of the first aircraft capable of flying 4D initial trajectory operations, an A320. It will be the first of 100 A320s equipped with what Airbus describes as «FANS-C» avionics—the combination of automatic dependent surveillance contract (ADS-C) and controller to pilot data link communication (CPDLC) capabilities. Onboard avionics necessary to enable 4D trajectory operations include new data link routers, upgraded flight management systems and data link compatible cockpit displays (Figure left).

Over the next year, EasyJet will be one of seven airlines receiving FANS-C equipped aircraft from Airbus (similar replenishment is waiting for the Air France, British Airways, Iberia, Novair, Thomas Cook and Wizz Air fleets) to participate in the manufacturer’s «Demonstration of air traffic management improvements generated by 4D Initial Trajectory Information Sharing» (DIGITS) project. DIGITS was launched by the Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) to evaluate the ability aircraft and ground-based infrastructure in European airspace to transition to trajectory-based operations in the future.

«Our early hands-on experience already indicates that it promises to be an important enabler to increase the efficiency, safety and on-time performance of our expanding operations – especially in the congested European airspace,» said Hugh McConnellogue, group head of network operations at EasyJet.

Government-industry consortiums in Europe under SESAR JU and the United States under the FAA’s NextGen program have been researching the avionics and air traffic technologies necessary to enable 4D navigation since 2012. Current flight operations are managed by air traffic controllers using three dimensions, including an aircraft’s longitudinal, lateral and vertical path information.

«We congratulate EasyJet on the delivery of the first FANS-C equipped Airbus aircraft, which marks the start of this very large demonstration of 4D initial trajectory sharing across Europe,» said Jean-Brice Dumont, executive vice president of engineering, Airbus. >>>
>>> Over the next year, Airbus will be working with European ANSPs to collect data from 20,000 revenue flights measuring the performance of the aircraft and air traffic systems necessary to enable initial 4D operations. Air traffic facilities managed by DFS in Germany, ENAV in Italy and NATS in the U.K. will participate in these flight operations. Data link communication infrastructure and software provider Airtel ATN is supplying air to ground data link servers to DFS, ENAV and NATS for the flights, which will conclude in late 2020.

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