A breakthrough especially for the military, the improved Operational Air Traffic (iOAT) Flight Plan (FPL) has recently been implemented by the EUROCONTROL Network Manager (NM).
Airspace congestion is a major challenge in Europe. The Single European Sky (SES) ATM Research (SESAR) initiative is the European Commission’s response to cope with this. The SES concept builds upon harmonised cross border arrangements including Air Traffic Control and flow management procedures to increase capacity, flight efficiency and to reduce cost for all airspace users. A team from Airbus is working in close liaison with EUROCONTROL* to evolve (modernise and harmonise) the civil-to-military air traffic coordination, leading to safe, sustainable and more efficient use of the airspace namely the Single European Sky.
The implementation of the iOAT FPL is a major step forward to bring awareness on military flights to civil Air Traffic Control (ATC) operators. For the first time, the NM system will be able to validate and integrate OAT flights (under peacetime operations) into the civil side of Air Traffic Management (ATM). In this way in the future controllers won’t be surprised any more by military flights popping up on the radio asking for traffic service without any pre-notification. This allows smooth civil-to-military ATM collaboration and pre-planning according to expected sector capacity.
What is the Network Manager (NM)?
Many of us fly from time to time either into holidays or business trips. When we look at the organisation and management behind those flights, the NM plays an important role in managing and coordinating up to 32.000 flights across Europe on an average day. Flight plans from all flights, either to/from an airport in Europe or transiting through European airspace, are received and managed in the IFPS, which is the Flight Plan processing system of EUROCONTROL NM.
Experts from Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen and Elancourt developed this new format for the iOAT Flight Plan(s) in close cooperation with the responsible partners at the Civil-Military Cooperation Department of EUROCONTROL. The format builds upon the ICAO** Flight Plan format and was validated and tested by exchanging hundreds of iOAT Flight Plans between the Airbus and EUROCONTROL (test) systems. OAT flights are mainly executed by state or military aircraft, because the format allows more flexibility in the route planning. OAT flights are planned often at lower altitudes and do not follow published air routes like the general air traffic (GAT) flights do. It goes without saying that only open and unclassified data are shared, which is subject to the operational needs in the related civil systems.
In coordination with EUROCONTROL Belgium, Germany and France have accepted to be the pilot states for the iOAT flight plan initial implementation. For more information on the background and the benefits of the development, mainly for the military, please click here to download the brochure.
Following the successful negotiations we are in the preparations for the next phase in SESAR (SESAR 3). This will enable us to cover all phases of the Mission Trajectory (military 4D flight path) from (dynamic and static) Airspace Planning via En-Route towards Landing.
The utmost importance of this topic was just recently emphasised by members of NATO, ICAO and EUROCONTROL during the Global Civil-Military Aviation Summit at Brussels (see Global Civil-Military Aviation Summit | EUROCONTROL).
The vision into the future is to enable state and military airspace users to send their flight plans directly out of the mission planning system, or other digital devices (like tablet PCs, notebooks, or smart phones) to the Flight Plan Processing System (IFPS). With the implementation of the iOAT a significant first step has been made to improve civil-military flight plan coordination by respecting both civil and military ATM requirements.