Traffic Management Advisor (TMA) -- weather integration
January 18, 2010
Time-based flow metering (TBFM) of traffic to capacity-constrained areas such as airport runways and arrival fixes is considered a key element of the Next Generation (NextGEN) Air Transportation System operational concept for managing high density air traffic. The principal operational TBFM system today is the Traffic Management Advisor (TMA). TMA is used to optimize the flow of aircraft through various control points (e.g., arrival fixes, final approach fixes, and runway thresholds) so as to maximize airspace capacity without compromising safety. TMA makes continuous predictions of aircraft Estimated Time of Arrivals (ETAs) at various metering points along the flight's trajectory. Scheduling algorithms use the ETAs to compute Scheduled Times of Arrival (STAs) for each aircraft to specific scheduling points. The desired change in aircraft arrival time to the meter fix is provided to en route controllers who then accomplish speed and/or trajectory changes such that the plane passes over the arrival fix at the desired time. The required arrival fix time adjustment is continually updated as the plane proceeds to the arrival fix to provide closed loop control. During non-convective weather, TMA usage has resulted in increased capacity, reduced aircraft fuel burn, and decreased delay. If significant convective weather is present, the TMA software currently still assumes that an aircraft will fly the normal fair weather trajectory to a metering fix. However, if an aircraft deviates around a storm, the flying time to a metering point will generally be different from the fair weather flight time. Therefore, the TMA ETAs will be in error. Currently, the TMA usage is often halted during convective weather events because the arrival time adjustments provided to the controllers may be unmanageable or in error. A study is underway to determine the potential benefits derived from various approaches to integrating weather information from the Corridor Integrated Weather System (CIWS) with TMA. Our focus is on near term weather-TMA integration capabilities that would provide enhanced decision support for the operational community that is successfully utilizing TMA in non-severe weather and/or seeking to increase its operational utility in severe weather. As part of this study, and in conjunction with case study analyses of TMA actions and air traffic operations during convective weather, Subject Matter Experts (SME) from the National TMA Workgroup and select FAA facilities were interviewed to determine TMA fair-weather practices and to identify current TMA capabilities and limitations during weather impact events. The SMEs were also asked to prioritize TMA weather integration needs and to discuss specific weather integration options for the TMA displays. Real-time observations of TMA operations during convective weather were also conducted at Atlanta (ZTL), Boston (ZBW), and Chicago (ZAU) Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC) to examine (a) the common TMA control actions executed to meter flows during adverse weather, (b) when and why the TBFM becomes unusable during convective weather, and (c) which approaches to providing integrated weather-TMA information would most effectively extend the current TMA capabilities and increase ATM efficiency. The paper will describe initial results of the study including specific options for TMA-CIWS integration and the anticipated operational benefits for these options.