From 1 March 2021, DFS, the German air navigation service provider, will test the use of the so-called segmented approach procedure for incoming flights from the south during daytime at Frankfurt Airport, Germany. The GPS-based procedure avoids large cities, which has the potential to reduce noise in the Frankfurt region. It is also more fuel-efficient, which makes it more environmentally friendly due to the shorter flight paths used.
Air traffic volumes have dropped sharply due to COVID-19. Currently, only around 500 aircraft take off and land at Frankfurt Airport per day (2019: around 1,500 movements per day). The lower traffic volume has opened up more options to apply flight procedures that reduce noise. Such procedures can now be used more frequently over the Rhine Main region surrounding the airport. Segmented approach is one of these procedures. It allows a shorter final approach, bypassing densely populated cities and communities.
The use of this procedure has been an option for 10 years now. However, until now it was only used after 23:00 hrs in cases when delayed aircraft were still allowed to land although the night curfew was in place. The experience gained over these years demonstrates that the procedure has been sufficiently tested and, above all, that it is safe to fly. Currently, low traffic volumes offer a unique opportunity to increase the use of this procedure during daytime as well. The extent to which such a procedure can be integrated into regular operations during daytime and with higher traffic volumes is now to be analysed in a trial.
From 1 March, aircraft will fly around the major cities of Offenbach and Hanau when runway 25 is in use (operating direction when there is west wind) and the city of Mainz when runway 07 is in use (operating direction when there is east wind). Aircraft will follow routes that involve a later turn onto final approach and fly over less densely populated areas. Initially, the segmented approach will be tested exclusively for aircraft coming from the south.
The cities of Offenbach, Hanau and Mainz will be bypassed
According to the experts, the time windows in the early morning between 5:00 and 7:00 hrs, between 13:00 to 18:00 hrs in the afternoon as well as between 20:00 and 23:00 hrs lend themselves to the application of the segmented approach procedure. However, depending on the traffic situation, approaches may still have to use the usual approach procedure with a long, straight final approach.
The segmented approach will be available to all airlines from 1 March. DFS analysed and prepared the expansion of the time windows where the segmented approach is possible in close cooperation with the Lufthansa Group.
"I am very pleased that we can make good use of the low-traffic period together with our customers," said Dirk Mahns, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of DFS. "We are enabling direct and fuel-efficient procedures that are more efficient and environmentally friendly during this time of crisis," Mahns continued.
"The Lufthansa Group has been investing in modern navigation technologies and pilot training programmes for many years in order to be able to use procedures for low-noise and eco-efficient flying. We are very pleased that we were able to successfully complete the preparations for the increased use of the segmented approach at Frankfurt Airport together with DFS and start trial operations on 1 March," said Ola Hansson, COO & Accountable Manager at Lufthansa Airlines. "If the trial can later be transferred to regular operations at specific times of the day, it offers the chance to make a further valuable contribution to sustainability in the region on a permanent basis," Hansson continued.
The trial will be accompanied by noise monitoring under the auspices of the responsible aircraft noise abatement officers. Initial findings are expected to be available in autumn 2021.
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DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, the German air navigation service provider, is a State-owned company under private law with 5,600 employees (as at 30 June 2020). DFS ensures the safe and punctual flow of air traffic over Germany. Around 2,200 air traffic controllers guide up to 10,000 flights in German airspace every day, more than three million movements every year. This makes Germany the country with the highest traffic volume in Europe. The company operates control centres in Langen, Bremen, Karlsruhe and Munich as well as control towers at the 16 designated international airports in Germany. Its subsidiary DFS Aviation Services offers products and services related to air traffic management worldwide and provides air navigation services at nine German regional airports as well as at London Gatwick Airport and Edinburgh Airport in the UK. DFS has been working on the integration of drones into air traffic since 2016 and has set up a joint venture, Droniq GmbH, with Deutsche Telekom.