To enable arriving aircraft to fly optimized descents computed by the flight management system (FMS) in congested airspace, ground automation must accurately predict descent trajectories. To support development of the trajectory predictor and its error models, commercial flights executed idle-thrust descents, and the recorded data includes the target speed profile and FMS intent trajectories. The FMS computes the intended descent path assuming idle thrust after top of descent (TOD), and any intervention by the controllers that alters the FMS execution of the descent is recorded so that such flights are discarded from the analysis. The horizontal flight path, cruise and meter fix altitudes, and actual TOD location are extracted from the radar data. Using more than 60 descents in Boeing 777 aircraft, the actual speeds are compared to the intended descent speed profile. In addition, three aspects of the accuracy of the FMS intent trajectory are analyzed: the meter fix crossing time, the TOD location, and the altitude at the meter fix. The actual TOD location is within 5 nmi of the intent location for over 95% of the descents. Roughly 90% of the time, the airspeed is within 0.01 of the target Mach number and within 10 KCAS of the target descent CAS, but the meter fix crossing time is only within 50 sec of the time computed by the FMS. Overall, the aircraft seem to be executing the descents as intended by the designers of the onboard automation.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.