Future Airport: What process is followed when introducing new ATM technologies at Skyguide?

Gwénaël Vern: Skyguide has developed a change-management process in line with the European standards, in particular the Eurocontrol Safety Regulatory Requirements (ESARRs).

Regarding safety, we apply change with the general idea of answering the question ‘what can go wrong?’ in a structured way and to identify mitigations when necessary.

Regarding software, Skyguide applies a strict change-control mechanism to meet the required software assurance level. We also make sure that all changes are duly documented internally and externally, that procedures are correct, and that TEC and OPS training are done.

In addition, Skyguide is supervised by its national supervisory authority, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation, which strictly monitors safety activities and verifies that Skyguide applies all processes.

Specifically, what recent work have you done with Skysoft-ATM with regards to data link implementation?

Controller-pilot data link communications (CPDLC) was one of the most important Skyguide projects. Its aim was to answer the EU regulation that mandates CPDLC deployment by February 2013. The mandated technology is ATN/VDL2 (Aeronautical Telecommunication Network/VHF Data Link Mode 2). Skysoft-ATM is delivering a state-of-the art stripless system to Skyguide in Geneva and Zurich ACCs.

For this project, Skysoft-ATM had to interface new CPDLC equipment with new protocols and integrate CPDLC communication functions in the stripless system. Skyguide and Skysoft-ATM have pioneered implementing CPDLC with success.

DCL aimed at introducing data link departure clearance at Geneva Airport. This function is available in many important European airports. The technology in use is the Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) that has been widely used by the major airlines since the 1980s.

It is a mature technology that is also used by airlines for aeronautical operational control (AOC) applications, but it was quite new in this domain. Skysoft-ATM was in charge of the interface of the ACARS network with the ATM system. Skysoft-ATM succeeded in making a better offer than all established ACARS companies and in delivering the product ahead of schedule.

These two projects share some characteristics: involvement of many internal stakeholders, OPS training, many interactions with external stakeholders such as OEMs, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, communication service providers such as ARINC and SITA, and many live tests.

In the two projects, Skysoft-ATM has demonstrated the ability to be flexible, cost-effective, and able to meet content and timing objectives.

What consideration is given to training prior to roll-out?

Skyguide, as an air navigation service provider, is managing a system that includes equipment, procedures and the human factor. We play very close attention to the human dimension, and we pay attention that our operators – usually, air traffic controllers (ATCOs) and air traffic safety electronics personnel (ATSEPs) – are duly trained.

ATCOs are trained in classes to understand the operational concept of the change and the OPS procedures before moving into air traffic simulations.ATSEPs are trained on the overall change and, in particular, on the equipment they are in charge of. Training is carried out by the providers and is complemented by internal staff for local procedures.

How important is interoperability, with existing systems at Skyguide, and with aircraft systems and the ATM systems in Switzerland’s neighbouring countries?

For the data link projects, interoperability plays a key role. These projects are characterised by strong interactions with aircraft. To make sure that ground and air systems are interoperable, international organisations – ICAO, EUROCAE and EUROCONTROL – have developed interoperability standards. Skyguide has to make sure that these standards are correctly implemented.

In such a configuration, verification plays an important role. It is managed in an incremental manner: test of the ATM system against test tools, then real equipment on test platforms, then aircraft on the ground and finally live tests.

With CPDLC, some coordination also has to be established with our neighbouring ACCs managed by three ANSPs: France, Germany and Italy. The ground-to-ground coordination was necessary for CPDLC for the ‘log on forward’ function using OLDI messages.