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June 17, 2024
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Lufthansa will introduce 4D flight trajectory technology on 65 newly delivered Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft from 2024. The technology, called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Contract Extended Projected Profile or ADS-C EPP for short, will help to optimize flight profiles and reduce fuel burn and emissions. Lufthansa to introduce 4D navigation technology in 2024.

ADS-C EPP will become mandatory in the European Union in 2028 on newly delivered aircraft and in air traffic management ground control systems. The system not only tells controllers the position of an aircraft in 3D (length, width, height) but adds time as a fourth dimension. This makes the position even more accurate, so air traffic controllers can optimize the flight profile for not just one specific aircraft but for others as well.

The system, which has been developed under the European SESAR program, will allow aircraft to follow an optimized climb and descent profile, which together with other technologies that assist during these phases of flight will contribute to a lower fuel burn. 

Currently, Eurocontrols Maastricht Upper Area Control (MUAC) region is the only one fully prepared for ADS-C EPP. MUAC coordinates all civil and military traffic between 24.500 and 66.000 feet over Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, and northwest Germany.

Slide from a 2022 SESAR presentation that explains how ADS-C EPP works. (SESAR)

Demonstration done in 2019

A pre-operational demonstration with the system was done in 2019, in which airlines like easyJet, Air France, British Airways, Iberia, Novair, and Wizz Air participated as well as Airbus. Other ATM agencies in Europe were involved as well. MUAC implemented the ADS-C technology in May 2022, using it for some 150 flights per day.

In a July 2019 press release, Eurocontrol described how ADS-C is working:

Using ADS-C technology, aircraft log on to the MUAC system and automatically downlink flight management system information, which can be displayed on the controllers’ screens. In particular, the flight management system downlinks the Extended Projected Profile (EPP), which consists of up to 128 waypoints in four dimensions, and therefore, provides valuable data to the controllers about the aircraft’s intent.”

“Should it differ from the flight plan available to the air traffic controllers, they will receive a warning. Further information such as the top of descent is made available to the controllers too, so that continuous descent operations can be initiated more optimally. ADS-C has the potential to increase safety and ensure more efficient air traffic management service provision.”

Certified on the A320neo and A330neo family

The technology is certified for the Airbus A320neo and A330neo families. Lufthansa only operates the former but could inherit the latter when it concludes the transaction to acquire 41 percent of ITA Airways. The Italian carrier recently introduced the first A330-900 and has more on order.

Lufthansa Board member Detlef Kayser, responsible for fleet and technology, says in a press release that the airline has made a “conscious decision” to introduce the 4D technology already next year: “This will enable our pilots to fly even more efficiently on first flights within Europe as early as next year, thus reducing CO2 emissions.”

author avatar
Richard Schuurman
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016. Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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