European Parliament Backs Sesar Extension to 2024

 - April 25, 2014, 8:54 AM
Airbus's A320 MSN001 flight-test aircraft flew the second initial 4D flight trial under the Sesar program in March. (Photo: Airbus)

The European Parliament has voted to extend the mission of the Single European Sky ATM Research (Sesar) Joint Undertaking (SJU) by eight years, until 2024. The organization expects the European Union Council of Ministers, the second chamber of the EU legislature, will adopt the final act extending its life this summer.

During its plenary session in Strasbourg on April 15, the parliament approved a European Commission proposal to extend the SJU’s mandate beyond its current sunset date of Dec. 31, 2016 and contribute €600 million ($830 million) toward its operations through the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework program for research. The SJU, created in 2007 and based in Brussels, is a public-private partnership that includes industry participation. It has embarked on deployment—the third and final phase—of the Sesar effort, considered the “technological pillar” of the Single European Sky.

Under the Sesar program, Airbus, Eurocontrol, Honeywell, Thales, Indra and the Noracon consortium of air navigation service providers participated in an “initial 4D” (i4D) flight trial on March 19. The concept involves the sharing and synchronization of aircraft trajectory information in the air and on the ground, providing for more efficient flight profiles and more strategic management of arrival flows. The partners conducted an earlier i4D test flight using an Airbus A320 flown from Toulouse, France, to Copenhagen in February 2012.

In the latest test, Airbus’s A320 MSN001 flight-test aircraft, equipped with a Honeywell flight management system (FMS), flew from Toulouse through airspace managed by Eurocontrol’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Center (MUAC) to meet a specified time window at a metering point, or fix, near Copenhagen Airport, according to the SJU. “The flight then continued into Nordic Unified Air Traffic Control airspace to demonstrate an optimized descent to Copenhagen, after which it climbed to a cruise level and then descended into Swedish airspace to a second metering point before landing at Stockholm Arlanda Airport.” After changing to a Thales FMS, testers flew the aircraft from Stockholm toward Copenhagen to meet two further time constraints, then climbed to MUAC airspace and returned to Toulouse.

“While a previous flight trial in 2012 demonstrated the feasibility of i4D, this second flight demonstrates the maturity and the robustness of the concept within a real traffic situation,” the SJU said. “This flight is an important step in the i4D validation roadmap, since it proves that the technology, systems and procedures are ready for large-scale demonstrations and therefore one step closer to deployment.”

Recently, the SJU published a fourth set of 20 Sesar validation exercises it plans to conduct this year. The organization managed 68 exercises over three previous releases. According to a draft opinion delivered by the European Parliament’s transport and tourism committee late last year, rapporteur Antonio Cancian of Italy “finds that Sesar JU has been working well so far, delivering the expected results, and therefore he supports the Commission’s proposal to extend it without any changes.”