The “Free Flight” Concept
Beneficial or Detrimental?
ASCI 604- Human Factors in Aviation/Aerospace Industry
25 Sept 2007
The airspace over the United States is congested, with a high and growing volume of traffic. In the interest of safety, the congestion is made worse by the constraint that aircraft be routed through a series of pre-established airways where they can be subject to the positive control of air traffic controllers. One proposal to mitigate the congestion problem is "free flight." There are several variants of free flight, all of which give pilots the additional authority to fly directly from one point to another without restricting their movements to the established airways. In principle, free flight should save time and fuel. But extra freedom to navigate airways carries with it the increased risk of aircraft passing dangerously close to each other, creating a situation that could become a midair collision.
When air traffic demand exceeds capacity, it produces congestion. Congestion leads to delays in departures and queues for landing, causing inconvenience to passengers and big losses to air companies. It can also potentially affect airspace safety. In the short term, the best that can be achieved by the system is to limit the size and the impact of the delays produced by congestion. In other words, to manage the air traffic flows before the demand exceeds the available capacity. This activity is known as Air Traffic Management (ATM). The current (ATM) system is plagued by insufficient capacity, limited access, and excessive operating restrictions. This has resulted in increased delays, higher operating costs, and diminished system efficiency. Several proposals were suggested concerning the future of ATM. Each of which had at least one thing in common; the implementation results would significantly change the roles of air traffic controllers and pilots. One proposal in particular presented the most relevant solutions to...