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Better Departure Data Will Improve Journey Time Reliability

20 May 2014

A project to share more accurate UK flight departure data with EUROCONTROL will significantly improve operational efficiency and journey time reliability. 

Delivered as part of the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) Future Airspace Strategy, the Departure Planning Information (DPI) project will allow UK airports to share real-time data with the broader European network from April 2015. 

Traditionally, departure time predictions can be inaccurate to the tune of several minutes due to the nature of busy air traffic operations and the prevailing weather conditions. 

Being able to share the exact time an aircraft is planned to depart will reduce the impact of delays, allow for more efficient aircraft routing and provide greater certainty for ground handling crews at destination airports. 

The project has been a collaboration between air traffic control company NATS, the CAA and various airports and airlines. Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), a newly created innovation centre set up by Technology Strategy Board, acted as a project facilitator. 

Andy Shand, NATS General Manager for Customer Affairs, said: “With DPI, our controllers will have a more accurate prediction of take-off times, and we will pass on that scheduling information to EUROCONTROL with more certainty. That in turn will allow our airport and airline customers to better plan their operations, while NATS will be able to offer more fuel efficient routes.” 

The project will deliver two types of solution: a simplified, cost-effective version suited to smaller airports to allow them to share data with EUROCONTROL, and a software upgrade for those airports already equipped with the more advanced Electronic Flight Progress Strips. 

As a result, departure data for up to 87% of all UK flights will be shared in real time. 

Based on the success of the project, NATS and TSC have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, committing to working closely together on future projects that will benefit the transport industry and the public. 

“In the short time that we have been working together with NATS, an incredible amount has already been achieved,” said Philip Ellis, DPI programme manager for TSC. “The DPI project is putting UK airports and airspace optimisation right in the vanguard when it comes to departure information handling, so it’s a great start as we look to increase intelligent mobility for UK transport as a whole.” 

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