Thales Advances ‘4-Flight’ Deployment In France
Thales reported progress in developing the next generation of air traffic management (ATM) system for ATC facilities operated by the French Air Navigation Service Department (DSNA). The company said it is on track to deliver an intermediate version of the advanced 4-Flight system to two French area control centers (ACCs) by 2014. Plans call for the final version of the system to enter operation at the two en-route centers during the winter of 2016-2017.
Last year, Thales (Chalet B253, Exhibit U62) delivered the first build block, or prototype version, of 4-Flight to the DSNA in Toulouse, just over a year after contract award. This system serves as a testbed version for further developing controller decision-support software tools.
Patricia Davriu, Thales vice president of automation systems Europe. Davriu provided a program update at the World ATM Congress in Madrid in February.
France, located at the crossroads of major European air traffic routes, is an appropriate testbed for Sesar applications, such as 4-Flight, Davriu said. The country’s ATC system handles three million flights per year, or more than 8,000 flights per day. France is also a member of Functional Airspace Block Europe Central (FABEC) with Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland, a regional block that handles 5.5 million flights per year, equating to 55 percent of European air traffic. “If 4-Flight is able to handle the traffic density in this region, it will be able to handle the traffic density in all of the European regions,” Davriu said.
The 4-Flight program started in 2008 as a collaboration between the DSNA and ENAV, the air-navigation service provider (ANSP) of Italy. The system is based on “CoFlight,” a flight-data processing system that Thales is developing through a consortium with Selex Systems Integration, a new human-machine interface (HMI) to display information to controllers and decision-support tools complying with the Single European Sky ATM Research (Sesar) effort. It is being implemented in initial, intermediate and operational build blocks.
In late October 2011, the DSNA awarded Thales a 10-year framework agreement and the first development contract for 4-Flight, which will be deployed in all five French ACCs and major approach facilities, including those in the Paris vicinity. Thales delivered the 4-Flight prototype system to the DSNA in Toulouse in December 2012. Plans call for an intermediate build block with more functionality to be delivered in 2014 to ACC East in Reims and ACC Southeast in Aix-en-Provence. These two centers will begin operating the system by 2016-2017.
The goal is to make controllers more efficient and capable of handling more air traffic through advanced technology that better facilitates collaborative decision-making and conflict detection. The Thales HMI is being designed “by the controllers for the controllers,” Davriu declared.
CoFlight, based on Eurocontrol’s flight-data processing (eFDP) specifications, is an open architecture system with standardized middleware allowing for future upgrades and scaling of applications. The system is being rolled out in four increments, and will enable advanced functions, such as four-dimensional (4-D) aircraft trajectories, data-link communications and greater interoperability among control centers. The program’s objective is to replace the current FDP systems used by the ANSPs of France, Italy and Switzerland with a new generation system, interoperable on a European scale.