Fuel Inefficiency Characterisation and Assessment due to Early Execution of Top of Descents: A Case Study for Amsterdam-Schiphol Terminal Airspace using ADS-B data

Ramon Dalmau, J. Sun, Xavier Prats

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

The vertical trajectory plan (altitude and speed) corresponding to the descent phase of a modern airliner is computed by the on-board flight management system while the aircraft is still in cruise. As long as the constraints on the arrival procedure allow, this system plans for an idle descent and the exact location of the (optimal) top of descent (TOD) is determined in this process. In busy terminal airspace, however, air traffic control officers – motivated by the needs to maintain a safe and expeditious flow of aircraft – might require to start the descents before the TOD computed by each particular arriving aircraft. In such situations, most flight guidance systems aim to intercept the original altitude plan from below, by using a shallower descent angle while keeping the speed plan, requiring in this way, additional thrust. This leads, consequently, to higher fuel consumption figures. The objective of this paper is threefold. Firstly, it characterises and quantifies these fuel inefficiencies for an Airbus A320, using accurate aircraft performance data and a trajectory computation software from the manufacturer. Secondly, it proposes a methodology to automatically identify early descents and to extract the key parameters required to compute the fuel inefficiencies by only observing ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast) data. Finally, the method is applied to a case study with 4,139 real ADS-B trajectories in Amsterdam-Schiphol (The Netherlands) terminal airspace; showing that early descents are very frequent and that they increase the fuel consumption by a 5%, in average.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event14th USA/Europe Air Traffic Management Seminar - virtual event
Duration: 20 Sep 202123 Sep 2021

Conference

Conference14th USA/Europe Air Traffic Management Seminar
Abbreviated titleATM2021
Period20/09/2123/09/21

Keywords

  • Continuous descent operations
  • air traffic control
  • environmental impact
  • ADS-B

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