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Plane flying

Technical systems supporting flight planning operations are constantly evolving. Keith Mwanalushi looks at how recent advances can lower airline costs and improve punctuality
 

Over the past 20 years, the aviation industry has achieved a continuous evolution of the technical systems designed to manage the increasing number of aircraft flying. For instance, scientists in Germany are using the software from Lufthansa Systems to develop new air transport concepts, as well as to explore ways of improving the efficiency of navigation and flight planning.


In September, Lufthansa Systems announced its support for and collaboration with the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Lufthansa Systems is making NetLine/Plan and NetLine/Sched flight planning solutions available to the researchers.


At the beginning of the project, the experts from Lufthansa Systems prepared the data basis, installed the software on DLR computers and trained the scientists. Following the successful completion of the project, the DLR researchers can now use the two NetLine products to quickly simulate various air transport concepts. For example, they can analyse how the development of a faster aircraft would affect flight plans and the airline market in general. The project will run until 2020, and the results will be published and thereby made available to the industry.

 

In the meantime, Rene Vierke, Director Product Consulting Lido/Flight at Lufthansa Systems, says a few prerequisites must be met before flight planning can improve. “Firstly, the air traffic management entities have to allow the air operators a certain freedom of the airspace usage so that each operation individually can be optimised.”


Vierke reports that advances are being made. For instance, he says implementation of traffic rules in Route Availability Document within the ECAC countries, published yet mandatory route schemes, Organized Track Systems on a global scale in mainly oceanic areas like the North Atlantic. And also other published route schemes issued by national Air Traffic Management (ATM) authorities within congested airspace, as well as important airspace management initiatives like dynamic airspace management versus segments/routes being closed or made available, or the free route airspace initiatives in individual European Flight Information Regions – FIRs.


“This provides opportunities, but at the same time limitations optimising the air operators’ flight planning operations,” Vierke suggests. Importantly, he points to the airspace management rules within the individual European FIRs that need to be harmonised, which is not currently the case and provides unnecessary challenges for the operators.

 

Secondly, the digitised flight planning solutions must support such ATM initiatives, Vierke states. He says this support would mean more options would be available for air operators to improve their operation. Thirdly, he says these new options must also be implemented in the flight planning operations by these operators. “Should these prerequisites be met then an air operator has good options for improving the flight planning process. The industry challenges within the low cost and regional airline business provide the incentive for air operators to leverage the most of the optimisation options provided.”


In October, Lufthansa Systems announced that its Lido/Flight 4D (flight planning), Lido/Navigation (navigation solutions) and Lido/Performance (flight performance calculation) product lines will become even more integrated, providing airlines with a seamless digital process across all flight operations – from flight planning to an aircraft’s parking position at its destination.


“Digitalisation is affecting the entire aviation industry. We see this in the flight planning and navigation process in particular. Everything is becoming increasingly dynamic and data-driven. Paper maps are being replaced by state-of-the-art apps. New technologies such as in-flight connectivity offer the opportunity to display tactical real-time data such as weather, airspace and traffic information.


This is precisely where our integrated Lido solutions come in,” explains Dr Bernd Jurisch, who took over as Head of the Lido product lines at Lufthansa Systems in October.


The mutual exchange of data is of key importance to using Lido products for flight planning and navigation. This is because Lido provides the same information to everyone involved in flight operations – both in the air and on the ground – in situations such as an approach with poor visibility, for example. The information seen by pilots on their Lido/Navigation maps is based on the same data as the information available to the flight planner. This means the pilot and flight planner can coordinate the minimal decision height more safely and efficiently when choosing an alternate airport and make well-founded decisions in critical situations – such as whether a landing should be aborted or not.


The shared database is also used when acute meteorological phenomena necessitate a change to the planned route. New information can also be conveyed to pilots immediately during a flight. All of this saves not only time, but improves safety as well. „


Obviously, there are other players on the scene. NAVBLUE, an Airbus company, is pushing ahead with its ‘N-Flight Planning’ system after recently signing a partnership agreement with Hawaiian Airlines. It is hoped the new system will further enhance Hawaiian’s flight planning operations, with new technology that will calculate the safest, most efficient routes with greater accuracy. >>


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