On 13 August, DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH introduced an additional, shortened route for the MODRU departure route in westerly weather conditions at Düsseldorf Airport. DFS is thus implementing an EU directive which will increasingly require the implementation of surface navigation procedures at major European airports in the coming years. The experts of the Lufthansa Group are responsible for the development and design of the new route. Their aim was not only to implement the EU directive but also to reduce kerosene consumption and the associated emissions with the new route. The planning was carried out in close cooperation with the Noise Abatement Commission and the representatives of the communities living at the airport.

What is new?

In contrast to previous departure procedures, which were based on technical ground facilities, the new procedures are based exclusively on satellite-based navigation technology. The use of digital technology also allows the ideal line to be maintained more precisely. In addition, the procedures allow flexible flight route design, for example to save fuel and to positively influence the distribution of aircraft noise.

Who is behind it?

The key to success is the cross-departmental and cross-company teamwork in the Lufthansa Group: The 'Group ATM Development' team headed by Michael Hopp (FRA AO/FS) has been working for several years now together with Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS) on the introduction of new RNP1 departure routes for Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf and Berlin as part of the SESAR implementation project 'RNP Based Departure Operations'. Eurowings, which has the largest share of aircraft movements in Düsseldorf, is also represented in the Air Traffic Management of the Lufthansa Group.

"On the basis of the experience we have gained during our cooperation with Deutsche Flugsicherung in developing departure routes for Frankfurt and Munich, we were able to establish a new process for a joint approach that incorporates the aircraft noise expertise of the Lufthansa Group", explains project manager Michael Hopp. "We were able to apply this process when renewing the departure routes to the MODRU waypoint in the west of Düsseldorf, thus contributing to sustainability in air traffic". For example, the new procedure shortens the flight path by about 2.7 km, which avoids the emission of about 40 tons of fuel or 120 tons of CO2 every year.

How was the new flight path developed?

Valentin Reinhardt, Senior Expert Aircraft Noise, FRA AO/FS, has developed several route variants with a shortened flight path, which were converted into an official route design by DFS. The team from the EffFlug project - Efficiency Improvement in Flight Operations with a Focus on Aircraft Noise - evaluated the aircraft noise effects of these variants. In an iteration, the noise effects of the variants were balanced and improved for the affected communities.

"If you change the departure routes, the distribution of aircraft noise changes - this requires acceptance by the population," explains Gerd Saueressig, Project Manager EffFlug and aircraft noise expert of the Lufthansa Group, FRA CO/R. The involvement of bodies such as the Aircraft Noise Abatement Commission and citizen representatives is therefore crucial. The method for noise evaluation of flight procedures developed by the EffFlug project with representatives from industry and science made a central contribution to the successful introduction of the departure route to the MODRU waypoint in Düsseldorf.

Marc Hasenbein, ATC coordinator of Eurowings, was in constant dialogue with the citizens' representatives. "The work and the exchange with the citizens' representatives of the cities and communities concerned was intensive. The subject of aircraft noise is never popular. However, through transparency and openness we were able to reach a good compromise together". At council meetings and panel discussions, Hasenbein explained the interrelationships of the effects and answered numerous questions. On this basis, the municipalities finally agreed on a variant. In November 2019, the Aircraft Noise Abatement Commission issued a positive decision.

Implementation in practice

To ensure that the new flight procedure can be used regularly in practice, a working group was set up within the framework of the Working Group on Optimised Flying (platform of DFS and German airlines for the systematic further development of airspace structures in Germany) with air traffic controllers from DFS in the tower and lower airspace Düsseldorf, who were thus involved in the development of variants at an early stage. The variants must enable air traffic controllers to safely and systematically separate aircraft on arriving and departing traffic in their daily operations. Before the new route was introduced on 13 August, the obligatory four-hour shift in the Eurowings flight simulator was used to check the variants for safe flightability.

The Düsseldorf success could set a precedent: In future initiatives for the introduction of new flight routes that have an impact on aircraft noise, the joint approach will serve as a blueprint for ensuring further sustainability contributions through the commitment of the Lufthansa Group. Intensive work on a new departure route for Stuttgart is already being carried out in the proven team set-up.