Review of Aircraft Self-Spacing Concepts

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Authors: Ben Willems
Carolina Zingale, PhD.

Zingale, C., & Willems, B. (2009). Review of aircraft self-spacing concepts: Implications for controller display requirements (DOT/FAA/TC-09/03). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


This report summarizes the concepts and the simulations conducted on pilot self-spacing and self-separation between 2005 and 2007 and focuses on the implications for air traffic control information needs and display enhancements. It follows a previous literature review on these concepts by McAnulty and Zingale (2005). In 2007, air traffic levels were predicted to double or triple by the year 2025. To manage this increase, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been planning to modernize the National Airspace System and to develop new concepts, procedures, and tools that will alter the roles and responsibilities of pilots and controllers. These concepts include the delegation of some responsibilities and procedures to the flight deck of appropriately equipped aircraft. It is anticipated that not all aircraft will be equipped to conduct these procedures at the same time. Therefore, some aircraft will be able to conduct such procedures as self-spacing and self-separation earlier than others, resulting in a mixed-equipage environment. Based on the level of traffic management required, controllers will need information to differentiate aircraft. The FAA must conduct extensive testing on these concepts and on the type of support provided to controllers to ensure that efficiency goals are realized while risks are minimized.