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FAA trials multi-regional TBO: Advances in flight trajectories can cut aviation’s Carbon Footprint by 10%

FAA’s Latest TBO Trials: Significant Advancements in Air Traffic Management

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The FAA’s TBO program supports aviation sustainability and lessens the impact of flight disruptions.

A new initiative successfully managed flights across countries by predicting aircraft trajectories. The Federal Aviation Administration’s live flight demo included situations and flights between the U.S., Japan, Singapore, and Thailand. Using Trajectory Based Operations (TBO), countries shared aircraft trajectories, and air traffic experts optimized flight paths considering factors like weather and airspace closures.

Source: FAA

TBO uses accurate aircraft trajectory data to show expected locations from takeoff to touchdown. The plan is to move from voice-based to data-based information sharing, allowing immediate awareness of changes and better planning. This successful test showed that sharing and coordinating trajectory information can improve safety and efficiency, minimize delays and disruptions, and reduce costs, time, and emissions.

As the National Airspace System (NAS) and global Air Traffic Management (ATM) continue to evolve into Trajectory Based Operations (TBO), precise trajectory predictions will require enhancement and the expansion of current capabilities. These capabilities preserve or increase available airspace capacity and efficiency while maintaining safety standards.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is modernizing the NAS through the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), increasing safety, efficiency, and predictability. To realize the NextGen vision, many advanced technologies are being developed, tested, and deployed through research, innovation, and collaboration.

Want a closer look at TBO? Check out these enlightening videos from the FAA:

From Conventional to Trajectory-Based Operations: The Evolution of Air Traffic Management (ATM) Systems

  • TBO is an air traffic management system that improves strategic planning to speed up aircraft movement between airports. 
  • TBO will transition from voice-based communication to a system focused on data sharing across systems with global data standards.

Trajectory Based Operations (TBO) is an air traffic management (ATM) method that helps to balance demand and capacity in the National Airspace System (NAS). It aids air traffic managers and controllers in managing aircraft movement more efficiently. TBO reduces the need for reactive decisions and static miles-in-trail restrictions by improving planning and traffic management. 

The basis of TBO is the aircraft trajectory, which is determined by four dimensions—latitude, longitude, altitude, and time. This trajectory indicates the expected location and timing of the aircraft at key points along its route. It’s defined before departure, updated as needed, and shared among stakeholders and systems. Combining all aircraft trajectories on a given day defines demand and informs traffic management actions. The term “day-of operation” refers to the conditions on the day of an operation, such as equipment outages, weather, airport conditions, airline delays and cancelations, and other temporary NAS conditions.

TBO Key Elements: 

Source: FAA
  • Time Based Management (TBM) for managing traffic flow and trajectories using scheduling and metering.
  • Performance Based Navigation (PBN) for accurate aircraft navigation and improved decision-making tools for schedule feasibility and compliance.
  • Enabling Technologies for automating and expanding shared information about aircraft trajectories. This includes SWIM, Data Communications, enhanced data exchange, and more.

The FAA uses three automated platforms, Traffic Flow Management System, Time-based Flow Management, and Terminal Flow Data Manager, to enhance and support TBO decision-making. These systems, also known as the three T’s, are pivotal in strategic planning and resolving capacity-demand issues throughout the day of operation. 

TBM is set to be a significant factor of ATM, with traffic demand and operational needs influencing its implementation across the NAS. Some locations may not require direct TBM tool access due to infrequent, brief demand-to-capacity imbalances. However, TBM tool use in a specific NAS area depends on local and NAS-wide needs. Thus, neighboring facilities or the Air Traffic Control System Command Center can still influence facilities without direct TBM tools. The system will maintain its current operations in locations without TBM tools or during inactive TBM periods.

TBO: Unlocking Aerospace Efficiency to Keep Flying Sustainable in the Future

Trajectory Based Operations (TBO) enhance the predictability and management of flight locations and timings with the following benefits: 

– Better Throughput: 

  • TBO enables more feasible day-of operations plans, including aircraft sequencing schedules, thus expediting traffic flows and efficiently using available capacity.
  • TBO can potentially enable faster responses to severe weather or airport conditions, possibly increasing capacity under the same operating conditions and demand levels.

– Greater Predictability: 

  • Better data and decision tools help generate feasible schedules and ensure adherence to them, improving the predictability of aircraft movement. This may contribute towards improved on-time performance and fewer diversions, other factors permitting.
  • Reliable end-to-end aircraft timings allow operators to make better business decisions regarding fleet management and fuel loading.

– Enhanced Flight Efficiency: 

  • Greater predictability allows flights to absorb delays in a more fuel-efficient manner over the flight trajectory. For example, delays absorbed via vectors and long downwinds in the current system will be shifted further back.
  • Through the Terminal Flight Data Manager automation platform, TBO will improve the management of aircraft movement on the airport surface, taxi sequencing, and runway balancing, leading to efficient surface flows and reduced wait times.
  • With the support of Data Communications Tower and En Route services, TBO may enable additional gains in operator flexibility and flight efficiency in re-route situations.
  • Increased predictability will result in fewer interruptions during aircraft descent and fewer vectors for merging onto final approaches, leading to increased utilization of PBN procedures.

– More Operator Flexibility: 

  • TBO allows for increased collaboration regarding flight operator trajectory preferences, leading to more customized, business-friendly solutions to NAS constraints and increased operator flexibility.

The benefits will gradually increase over time as capabilities are implemented incrementally and as experience with the capabilities increases.

Understanding TBO: Operational Values 

TBO decision-making across the ATM system relies on a shared, collaboratively developed trajectory that more closely meets airspace user (AU) objectives. It delivers operational value to AUs, including:

  • Enhanced Predictability: Shared plan among stakeholders with the same trajectory information to reduce confusion.
  • Improved Flexibility: TBO makes it easy to adapt to changing circumstances while keeping business goals on track. This allows airspace users to make informed decisions, such as carrying less contingency fuel, knowing they can adjust as more information becomes available. This results in less fuel burn and lower emissions.
  • Strategic Planning Enhancements: Incorporating out-of-zone traffic reduces deterministic delay factors, improves network performance, and more evenly distributes the impact of delays.
  • Decreased Uncertainty: More accurate trajectory data reduces uncertainty in the system.
  • Strategic Plans and Tactical Actions Alignment: Through data sharing, management, and using the trajectory as a common framework.

TBO Trials Extend Across the Pacific

Source: FAA

Building on previous aerospace management systems (Mini Global, SWIM in ASEAN, IIH&V, FF-ICE/X, and 4DT validation activities), the FAA and global partners have developed scenarios in line with the TBO concept, emphasizing operational value across regions.

The project unites North America and Asia-Pacific. Leading the way are the core partners in the collaboration: the FAA, Nav Canada, AEROTHAI, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), and the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB). Supporting the effort as observers are Boeing and the GCAA-UAE. 

The TBO operating concept was broken down into specific scenarios and use cases, covering multiple FIRs and Regions. These scenarios focused on validating the ICAO’s FF-ICE draft Implementation Guidance, global exchange models, the International Aviation Trust Framework (IATF) application, and analysis of Air Traffic Flow Management (ATFM) procedures and information needs.

Challenges Ahead: Implementing TBO and Overcoming Obstacles

Implementing the future ATM System requires a strong information-sharing platform. This requires global standards and swift communication for operational changes and enhanced performance. 

The MR TBO Demonstrations have started identifying information, procedures, and tech needs for TBO implementation through large-scale simulations and live flights.

An Important Step toward Global TBO

Embracing Advanced Communication in Aviation 

Imagine a world where air traffic controllers no longer rely on voice-based exchanges but on immediate and broad data sharing. A world where a ripple effect in one country’s airspace doesn’t catch the next off guard but is anticipated, planned for, and seamlessly managed. Aviation’s future is here, unveiling itself in the form of Trajectory Based Operations (TBO). 

The Successful TBO Test and Its Impact 

The recent FAA trials showcased the immense potential of TBO, with the test proving to be a resounding success. It demonstrated international collaboration at its finest, as countries shared and coordinated trajectory information, leading to remarkable improvements in safety and efficiency. 

The benefits are hard to ignore: minimized delays and disruptions, large-scale travel cost and time reductions, and substantially decreased fuel usage. But perhaps the most standout outcome is the potential reduction in carbon emissions—an estimated 10%, a figure that cannot be dismissed given the pressing issue of climate change. 

A Greener, More Efficient Aviation Industry 

Flying over Singapore. (c) FCMedia/FlightChic

The aviation industry is on the brink of a significant transformation. With TBO, it’s not just about improving efficiency and cost-effectiveness. It’s about embracing a greener future, reducing the industry’s carbon footprint in a meaningful way, and leading the charge toward a more sustainable world.

Just the Facts

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