TBO: Trajectory-Based Operations

After the article about A-CDM (Airport Collaborative Decision Making), focussing on improving the overall airport performance at one specific airport, the next step is to focus on the bigger picture, away from just one single airport to the point of what happens at and in between two or even more airpots. This is where TBO, Trajectory-Based Operations, comes into play.

Today’s exchange of information is based on a 50 year old flight plan system. It works, but with limits, such as no automated flight plan updates and as a result, not all air traffic controls involved might be using the same flight plan. Additionally, to overcome growing traffic, increasing operational efficiency and further improve safety standards, something new is needed, everywhere. With TBO, the optimum system outcome with minimal deviation to the airline’s requested flight trajectory, this may be achieved.

All is based on 4D which represents the 3 spatial dimensions plus time. That given, a trajectory is planned and filed.

Photo source: Philipp Müller, based on IATA video

A planned flight trajectory may experience changes during the course of the flight. Changes may happen due to weather, military airspace or other constraints.

Photo source: Philipp Müller, based on IATA video

During the flight, data is being exchanged between cockpit, flight operations Center and ATC / ATFM. This allows changes in the path and the same data availability for cockpit crew, flight operations center and ATC / ATFM.

Having (the same) data available for all stakeholders allows:

  • safer operation
  • better predictability of air traffic for ATC / ATFM
  • increased capacities
  • more efficient ground operations services
  • reduced emissions and costs

Planning ahead for both in the air (ATC / ATFM) as well as on ground (at airports, for example with A-CDM) helps to further improve the aviation system as a whole.

While it is not mandated by ICAO, but by promoting the benefits, it is hoped to have the current system replaced.


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