Annex 11 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation defines Air Traffic Flow Management (ATFM) as a service established with the objective of contributing to a safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic by ensuring that ATC capacity is utilized to the maximum extent possible and that the traffic volume is compatible with the capacities declared by the appropriate Air Traffic Services (ATS) authority. In the pre-COVID-19 traffic environment the Asia/Pacific Region was challenged by significant imbalances of demand (traffic volume) and capacity, often resulting in fuel-costly airborne delays (holding), disruption (reduced predictability) for aircraft operators and their passengers, and increased workload and complexity for pilots and Air Traffic Control (ATC).
The Asia/Pacific ATFM Steering Group (ATFM/SG), initially formed in 2010, is tasked to: develop and maintain a Regional Framework for Collaborative ATFM, address ATFM implementation and operational issues in the Asia/Pacific Region; identify, research and recommend appropriate guidance for capacity and demand assessment and balancing, data gathering and sharing, and compliance; and to review the effectiveness of existing and planned ATFM programs in the APAC Region.
The Regional Framework for Collaborative ATFM, developed by ATFM/SG and first published in 2015, provides regional guidance and performance objectives for the implementation of cross-border ATFM in the APAC Region. Several APAC Administrations have developed the capability for such ATFM activity, and routinely activate ATFM programs as described in the Framework to manage airport and/or airspace demand/capacity imbalances.
The Tenth Meeting of the Steering Group (ATFM/SG/10) was held by Video Teleconference (VTC) from 4-8 May 2020. 95 participants from 16 Administrations and four International Organizations participated in the VTC.
Outcomes of the meeting included;
- a working draft procedure for the exchange of ATFM Daily Plans, which is now available for immediate use by APAC Administrations pending its inclusion in a future amendment to the Regional ATFM framework;
- the finalization of the ATFM Post-Operations Analysis Recommended Framework; and
- an updated version of the Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunications Network/Aeronautical Message Handling System (AFTN/AMHS)-based Interface Control Document (ICD. The ICD was developed in recognition that, while the future aim is the automated exchange of ATFM information using a standardized digital information exchange model, the Region has not yet reached the necessary level of System-Wide Information Management capability and must rely on existing, legacy technology to gain the immediate benefits of cross-border ATFM.
ATFM/SG/10 was also pleased to note the successful multi-lateral project coordinated by the ICAO Asia/Pacific Regional Sub-Office to improve efficiency and reduce delays for flights between Incheon Republic of Korea and Da Nang, Viet Nam, which had resulted in a significant improvement in efficiency and predictability for aircraft operators. The participating Administrations (China, Hong Kong China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Viet Nam) were congratulated for demonstrating the benefits of their collaborative approach to ATFM.
ATFM measures and level restrictions – before collaborative ATFM:
ATFM measures and level restrictions – after collaborative ATFM:
Major tasks currently being undertaken by ATFM/SG include the restructure and revision of the Regional Framework for Collaborative ATFM, and the development of an Operational Requirements Document (ORD) for ATFM information exchange, which will map the technical requirements for information exchange to the operational needs of ATFM units, aircraft operators, airport operators and Air Traffic Control (ATC).
The Regional Framework for Collaborative ATFM and associated guidance material is publicly available on the ICAO APAC Regional Office eDocuments web-page. ATFM/SG meeting documentation and reports are available on the Regional Office Meetings web-page. The next VTC meeting of ATFM/SG is tentatively planned for Q3/4 2020.
While traffic demand is currently significantly reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected to eventually normalize and resume its previous high rate of growth. ATFM remains a key APAC regional priority. All Asia/Pacific Administrations are encouraged to take the opportunity presented by the current low-demand situation to improve their ATFM capability in line with the provisions of the Regional ATFM Framework. For any enquiries or requests for ATFM implementation support, contact the ICAO Asia/Pacific Regional Office here.