Facing the demands of increasing air traffic capacity and operational efficiency, the countries of the Asia Pacific region have launched various programs to adopt recent advances in Air Traffic Management and advances inavionics technology over the past couple of decades. Some countries (notably Australia) have forged ahead, while others are further behind, but it is hoped that recent developments could see closer cooperation for an eventual move to a whole-area solution.
•The People’s Republic of China has been working toward an overall increase of airspace capacity and efficiency in airspace use in several areas. The number of air routes in China is increasing rapidly with the number of area and approach control sectors likely to hit 380 by 2015.
Terminal airspace in congested areas is being optimized with departure routes separated at airports with more than 200 daily landings. Efforts here are focused on routes between Beijing-Shanghai, Beijing-Guangzhou, Beijing-Kunming as well as between China and the Republic of Korea.
In January 2013, there was a total of 219 area and approach control sectors in China, among which 83 busy control sectors were being studied to determine the capacity of each sector. Much of 2013 was spent conducting evaluations of another 109 control sectors.
China is also busy undertaking a major study on the capacity evaluation of busy routes in complex operational environments and is using modeling techniques to juggle airspace consolidation with fast growing traffic and much needed increases in route capacity.
Performance-based navigation (PBN) trials have also been carried out on six routes and have improved overall operational efficiency and safety. A total of 82 airports were subject to PBN flight procedure design by April 2013 and notices of implementation were issued for dozens of airports.
Future work will focus on further airspace optimization in the most congested areas, especially on trunk routes such as Beijing-Shanghai, Beijing-Guangzhou and Beijing-Kunming. China is also working on broadening and perfecting flexible use of airspace in its efforts to achieve seamless air traffic control in the Asia Pacific region.
•The number of flights in the Japan FIR is predicted to increase by 50 percent in the next 15 years. Perhaps more alarmingly, traffic at Tokyo’s already severely constrained airports is expected to increase by 20 percent over the next five years alone.
Collaborative action for renovation of air traffic systems (CARATS) is Japan’s solution to the airspace challenge. The Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) has predicted that when the expected 50-percent growth hits high-volume airspace around Tokyo by 2027, sector workload in 10 zones will have reached saturation.
A principal technical component of CARATS is the shift from sectorized airspace to trajectory-based operations within Japan’s airspace, dynamically managing flights on an end-to-end time basis, promoting user-preferred flexible routes. This will also fulfill a second objective of CARATS, namely the improvement of predictability, which will be enhanced by performance-based operations and the use of satellite-based navigation for all flights within a consolidated FIR.
Collaboration between the JCAB, airlines, airports and the meteorology office is crucial. Recognition that no one party can alone deliver such complex solutions has been the first step in securing a whole-industry approach to improve the efficiency and capacity of Japan’s crowded skies, explains Kenichi Saito, CARATS director. That is one reason why collaborative decision-making is becoming an increasingly important tool for Japan’s air traffic control and its partners as they wrestle with extracting optimum capacity out of finite airspace, he told AIN.
•Covering an area of more than 800,000 sq km, Singapore manages one of the busiest and most complex areas of airspace in the Asia Pacific region. That growth has driven the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to embark on building Singapore as a center of excellence in ATM.
CAAS director-general Yap Ong Heng has said that the vision is for Singapore to host a vibrant and self-sustaining ecosystem, comprising research institutes and think-tanks, academia and industry players, as well as international and foreign ATM entities all working together on ATM concepts, technologies and solutions that meet the unique requirements of Singapore and the Asia Pacific.
Singapore is serious about its role, with plans to invest S$200 million in research and development over the next 10 years. In a joint undertaking with the Nanyang Technological University, the CAAS is diverting S$50 million of its overall R&D budget to establish the region’s first research institute specifically to look at increasing air traffic capacity and operational efficiency.
In November 2012, CAAS also sealed deals with major participants in ATM modernization programs–the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR). Equally important will be close cooperation between the CAAS and aviation stakeholders, including airlines, airport operators and technology suppliers.
•According to the Airports Authority of India, international traffic will see annual increases of 7 percent over the next decade with domestic movements topping that at 8-percent increases. That will demand an integrated and collaborative approach that will place flow management at the heart of future operations, enough to cope with increased traffic, monsoons and the odd cyclonic storm, plus the extensive airspace needs of the Indian air force.
Today, excessive airborne holding is the norm due to little strategic, pre-tactical or tactical automation/processes to efficiently smooth the demand on precious airspace resources, improve system efficiency and shrink the carbon footprint.
Until now, the primary method for long-term balancing of demand with system capacity has been to restrict demand by allocating a fixed number of arrival/departure slots to scheduled aircraft. That has proved insufficient, so India is now working toward eliminating bottlenecks largely through a collaborative approach between those managing Indian airspace and the nation’s airports.
The anticipated benefits of the collaborative approach in six of India’s most congested airports would achieve substantial annual reductions in air/ground delays with savings on the order of 142,845 minutes, six million kilograms of fuel–equating to 18 million kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions–and U.S.$9 million in airline costs.
•Until budget sequestration in the U.S. and schedule delays in Europe caused their respective ATM projects to stall, Australia had been planning its new ATM system called OneSKY to coincide with the Single European Sky and its U.S. counterpart NextGen.
Today, Airservices Australia, the nation’s air navigation service provider, is in a position to implement OneSKY well before both those programs. “We’ve had to start developing the roadmap ourselves because this isn’t about replacing a system, this is about changing the way we do business in the industry,” said Airservices’ spokesman Jason Harfield.
Discussions between Australia’s military and Airservices have been ongoing for several years with the goal of exploring the concept of integration and of overcoming historic differences. It is a project that is bold not only for its local ambitions, but for its lineup in the global ATM development program. “We’re implementing something that’s going to manage more than 11 percent of the earth’s surface, [and] we’re doing it combined with defense, so really this is something on a scale that isn’t being done anywhere else right now,” said Harfield. “We’re procuring a system that we are implementing in 2018 that will last us until at least 2035, so a lot of what will be contained in the tender submissions will represent a technology roadmap toward the end date not necessarily as technology stands today.”