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Icas from DFS: How the new system makes air traffic control work easier

Icas from DFS: How the new system makes air traffic control work easier

DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung completely renewed the control center in Munich. Not only is the building new, but so is the system by which the air traffic controllers work. what is the point?

Soft light falls from the ceiling through a metal honeycomb structure. Clean workplaces line the walls. Where computers and monitors used to be planted, there are now gaps with cables sticking out here and there. Old appliances are piled high on tables in the middle, with covers on. And in the corner lie neatly coiled cables.

“Now it’s deserted here,” says Wolfgang Breitl, looking at the huge room in Nordälje at Munich airport. “Before, there was not a single second in 30 years when at least one person was not present.” The place was also his workplace. Because he is the head of the DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung branch in Munich.

Hundreds of millions

The staff had been working in a new building about 50 meters north since March 18th. There, DFS rebuilt the old operating room of the Munich Control Center. Bigger, brighter and more modern. But not only is the large structure new, the system staffed by 275 air traffic controllers, 54 flight data processors and 26 supervisors is also new. The new system is called Icas, which stands for ITec Center Automation Systems.

DFS has been developing for over ten years with Dutch air traffic control service LVNL and technology partner Indra. The aim of the mammoth Icas project is to enable more efficient traffic flow and to simplify cooperation with other European air traffic control organizations.

away from the stripes

What sounds highly technical also has direct practical benefits for the women and men at the Munich control center. They not only monitor the airspace up to an altitude of 9,600 meters, which stretches from Lake Constance to the Czech border and from Leipzig to the Brenner Pass. They also control arrivals and departures at Munich, Memmingen, Nuremberg, Leipzig, Erfurt and Dresden airports. Now, thanks to Icas, they can do it much more efficiently.

This data is displayed directly on the main screen for each flight. More data can be retrieved upon request. Image: DFS

In the past, flight-related information—such as the call sign, route, aircraft model, and more—was still printed on so-called tapes, and controllers then wrote their instructions next to them. Later it was shown on electronic tapes shown on a separate screen.

It can now be viewed directly on the main screen, which air traffic controllers call the air situation window. And with one click you get additional data about the trip. “This allows us to reduce the turnaround time,” says air traffic controller Felix. desire. This means employees don’t have to look down as much and can focus on the most important things on the home screen.

Cleaner screen for a better overview

The radar or air situation window is the central working tool for air traffic controllers. Icas has a square screen about 50 x 50 cm in size. Against a gray background – formerly black and therefore less easy to read and therefore more cumbersome – the radar data for flights is shown with additional information.

If the flight is blue, it means it’s coming your way, if it’s black, it’s in control, and if it’s purple, it might be interesting. Gray means that the trip is not relevant to the individual. “It means relief,” says Lang.

All information presented on the main screen. More data can be retrieved upon request. Image: DFS

In addition, flights are now displayed as a 4D trajectory. The Icas system calculates the incremental path of flight in three-dimensional space for each aircraft. Flight plan data and information on aircraft performance, weather or available airspace are included. Everything is complemented by the time factor. If the console changes entries, this path will be recalculated. “The system supports working through electronic format,” Lang explains. It also helps in conflict detection and traffic planning.

An expensive endeavor

In addition to the main screen, the consoles have five additional screens in the 1,600-square-foot control room. For example, constantly recalculated arrival times are shown in the arrival manager. This allows the controller to sequence flights.

And in the air traffic control information system, weather data is displayed or notams can be called up. The table’s large touch-sensitive horizontal screen helps to read or access data from Icas. And of course today’s audio radio is digitally controlled – via a touch screen on the right side of the desk. Icas making DFS pay a lot. Project costs amount to more than 60 million euros for the Munich site alone and more than 300 million euros for the entire company.

Headquarters and control tower

German air traffic control operates four control centers – one in Bremen, one in Karlsruhe, one in Langen near Frankfurt, and one in Munich, which was the first to receive the new system. They are triggered when a plane leaves the airport and boards – or vice versa. On the other hand, observers in the control tower monitor what is happening on the runway, on the runways and in the surrounding atmosphere.

In the photo gallery above, you can see more photos of the MD-82 with the former YR-OTN license plate. Clicking on the image opens the gallery in a large format.