The airspace in Central Europe is already one of the busiest airspaces in the world and the forecasts predict further traffic increases. The current air transport system is reaching its capacity limits, not only at airports but also in parts of the en-route area. This is mainly due to the workload constraints of air traffic controllers.
In the past, many technical system functionalities were developed with the aim of reducing controller workload and thus enabling the safe handling of the predicted traffic growth. But these new functionalities alone will not provide adequate relief to air traffic controllers. Their working procedures and the airspace structure will have to be adapted accordingly. In order to obtain real operational benefits, these technical innovations must be integrated into an overall concept which – in addition to the above-mentioned factors – also takes account of ergonomic aspects and human-machine interfaces.
When developing such an overall concept, additional evaluation and validation measures are indispensable to ensure that the desired operational benefits are achieved. This is why DFS has for many years used fast- and real-time simulations to assess and optimise any changes to be made to the air traffic control system. The working methods of DFS in this context are in keeping with the European Operational Concept Validation Methodology of 2007, in short E-OCVM.
This paper outlines the development and validation activities of DFS using the MSP D/L project as an example. The project deals with the introduction of the new role of air traffic controllers as multi-sector planners (MSP) and new system functionalities, such as air/ground data link (D/L).
The project included the development of an operational concept for using the new functionalities as well as for defining working procedures and the airspace structure. This concept was subsequently evaluated by means of a fast-time simulation and two real-time simulations and gradually optimised.
This paper focuses on how data were collected during the real-time simulation. In addition to collecting traffic-specific indicators and data concerning the taskload situation, we also performed an eye-tracking analysis in cooperation with the Darmstadt University of Technology to analyse changes relating to the working methods and the information used.
Another objective of the paper is to compare the use of the prototype simulation platform for the real-time simulation with the use of operational systems for simulation purposes. Adapting operational systems to new operational procedures and functionalities is always associated with considerable costs. Air traffic controllers, however, need a realistic working environment for such simulations. Otherwise, it is impossible to obtain reliable results. It is not easy to develop a simulation platform that ensures both a realistic environment and quick and flexible adaptation capabilities. The project successfully met this challenge with the help of the Advanced Function Simulator (AFS) of the R&D Centre at DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung. The major features of the prototype simulation platform, i.e. rapid data adaptation, iterative development and automatic compilation of all user interactions, are shown using Project MSP D/L as an example.
An overview of the results achieved in the real-time simulation is given at the end of the paper.