Airbus advances Initial-4D project with test flight with 4D air traffic management

TOULOUSE, France, 10 Feb. 2012. An Airbus A320 test aircraft flew from Toulouse to Copenhagen and Stockholm in what company executives are calling the world’s first flight using four-dimensional optimized and upgraded air traffic management (ATM) technology. The test flight is part of the Initial-4D (I-4D) project, intended to reduce fuel burn and C02 emissions, reduce the environmental impact per flight by ten percent, and decrease delays for shorter, smoother flights. It is also expected to help not only improve the existing European system, which is reaching its capacity limit, but also transform today’s air traffic management system.

The 4D ATM system, when proven and industrialized, will enable aircraft to plan and fly an optimized, efficient profile without any need for the controllers to provide any vectoring instruction. It will bring better predictability of the traffic flows and facilitate Continuous Descent Operations into airports; as a result, aircraft flying in a holding pattern will be notably reduced, says a representative.

I-4D trajectory management relies on an aircraft function that predicts and transmits data to the ground. The aircraft can then fly a 4D-trajectory--described in three dimensions (lateral, longitudinal, and vertical) with one target time at a specific merging point (time as the fourth dimension)--after coordination with the ground systems.

I-4D is considered the first step in developing one of the essential pillars of the SESAR program, conciliating the increasing traffic density with the efficiency of flights, and is the result of several months of collaboration between SESAR partners. One of Airbus’ key roles has been to test the upgraded flight management (navigation) and communication systems and to integrate them into the real aircraft architecture.

More flight trials and simulations are planned in 2012 and 2013. The first I-4D operation is planned in Europe from 2018 onwards. 


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