The idea of improving predictability of flights is not new: it could bring many substantial advantages and increase the overall efficiency of the civil aviation system. Not flying at the initial requested flight level, departing at times different from the original estimated, arriving in the sector earlier or later than originally planned or deviating from their original planned route causes “over-delivery”, or a sort of congestion of air traffic. If we want to avoid wasting capacity, potentially excessive workload and stress for the controllers, increasing predictability is a must.
Pilots play a significant role when it comes to increasing predictability: adhering to the Flight Plan is a key that could significantly improve predictability. Much of this rests on the pilots but not everything. A number of pre-requisites should be met to allow for a practicable, stricter adherence to the Flight Plan. We’ve put a 7 point guide to improving predictability, reflecting on the pilots’ viewpoint:
1. Flight preparation
Pilots, controllers and dispatchers shall be selected, trained and educated according to the new environment. Planning the flights in a strategic way will require an enforcement of managing abilities.
2. Actual vs. forecast conditions
Predictability shall be complemented with a change in traffic management that builds in the flexibility needed to cope with unexpected situations.
3. Predictability as a tool, not a goal
In situations where adherence does not impact the network, flexibility shall be granted.
4. Display and update of MET information
Weather info sharing shall undergo a revolution, both in the way it is presented and updated. Better informed decisions will be more stable and require fewer revisions, therefore increasing predictability.
5. Early and effective sharing of info
Pilots shall be SWIMpported swiftly enough so that they can revise every intention previously shared. (SWIM or ‘System Wide Information Management’ consists of standards, infrastructure and governance enabling the management of ATM information and its exchange between qualified parties via interoperable services.)
6. Not all pilots fly the same way
Even in a highly predictable environment buffers shall be in place to adapt to different ways of flying.
7. Predictability needs “two to tango”
Not only airspace users have to be predictable. The ATM procedures shall also be simple and predictable so that dispatchers/crews are able to anticipate.