Airservices Australia’s new corporate plan identifies investment priorities for 2018-19

Airservices Australia has published its corporate plan for 2018-19, illustrating the full range of activity and investments the air navigation service provider (ANSP) will undertake in the coming years.


Summary:

  • Airservices Australia has disclosed its upcoming investments and improvements for the Australian air traffic management system;
  • Under OneSKY there will be amalgamation of civil and military aerospace and formation of a single flight information region;
  • New technologies stand to revolutionise Australian air traffic control, including A-CDM and long range ATFM.

The plan prioritises delivery of ‘OneSKY’, Australia’s plan to integrate and harmonise civil and military air traffic management (ATM) systems. OneSKY is expected to deliver over AUD1 billion in industry benefits upon delivery, and Airservices also plans to roll out upgrades in digital aerodrome technology, airport collaborative decision making and long range air traffic flow management.

But what exactly do these investments entail?

OneSKY, the future of airspace management over the Australian flight information region

The map below shows the Australian flight information region (FIR). Airservices is responsible for approximately 11% of the world’s airspace.

The airspace above the white coloured FIR boundary line is controlled from the Brisbane Centre and the airspace below is controlled from Melbourne Centre:

Australian Flight Information Region (FIR)

Source: Airservices Australia

The ambitious OneSKY project, to be jointly delivered by Airservices and the Department of Defence, aims to unify civil/military operations and consolidate management of airspace into a single FIR. Unified operations will result in a greater ability to share airspace with the military, which means more efficient flight paths and routings for commercial airlines. The system will be delivered by the French-global aerospace conglomerate Thales.

The scale of OneSKY cannot be overstated. Airservices Australia CEO Jason Harfield previously reflected on the project, stating that it “represents a once in a lifetime transformation for Australian aviation management”. He added: “OneSKY means Australia’s vast air space will be managed as one single flight arena combining civilian and defence, with common information, data sharing, greater airspace flexibility, greater resilience, and common tools to manage air traffic more effectively while enhancing safety”.

Mr Harfield believes successful deployment of OneSKY, combined with other reforms and technologies, will “enable us to smoothly handle all anticipated growth in traffic in all of our airports – not just those in the major cities… This is not only a historic shift for Australia, it will provide a model for other countries to follow”.

Digital aerodrome technology and airport collaborative decision making go hand-in-hand

Digital aerodrome technology is a broad term encompassing a range of potential upgrades for Airservices Australia and the airports it manages. Airport collaborative decision making (A-CDM) systems is an example of digital aerodrome technology. Other examples include equipping airports with automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) technology or satellite-based augmentation systems.

A-CDM looks to improve the way airports, aircraft operators, ground handling organisations and air traffic control work to harmonise airport operations through data sharing and decision support technology, along with improvements in how the various parties come together to make collaborative decisions. The collaboration leads to better utilisation of runway and gate capacity, smoother recovery from adverse operations, and an overall higher level predictability.

In early May-2018 Airservices partnered with Saab Sensis Corporation, a US defence and security company, to deliver an A-CDM solution in Australia. Airservices is the first air navigation service provider in the world to lead a “multi-location A-CDM implementation” with Saab to connect Brisbane Airport, Melbourne Tullamarine Airport, Perth Airport and Sydney Airport to improve operating efficiencies. Poised for a full roll out by 2020, A-CDM is expected to save the Australian aviation industry an estimated AUD52 million over the next decade.

Australia’s secluded geography positions it as a prospective beneficiary of long range air traffic flow management

Regular air traffic flow management (ATFM) is the practice of regulating air traffic in order to avoid exceeding airport or air traffic control capacity, while ensuring that available capacity is used efficiently.

While this is a typical process employed at airports globally, regular ATFM only considers a rather limited scope of factors. In Europe, for example, different air traffic providers in different countries often do not directly share data – leading to issues when aircraft transition between FIRs.

Australia is in a unique position to extend its ability to judge capacity in its ATFM functions by adding long range capabilities. As ground-based, line of sight technology continues to move to space-based surveillance in the future, long range ATFM becomes more and more realistic.

Airservices CEO Jason Harfield, previously commenting on potential for the technology, said: “In theory every ANSP will have the ability to access information from anywhere on the globe”. Mr Harfield also pointed out the potential of the technology on Qantas’ recently launched direct Perth-London Heathrow service. He added: “Imagine how we could improve that flight… When it gets to India on its way to Australia there is still 11 hours to go… From that point on, with long range air traffic flow management, we can optimise its journey home”.