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1. (WO2018224693) SYSTÈME ET PROCÉDÉ D'ATTRIBUTION D'UN CRÉNEAU HORAIRE D'ATTERRISSAGE À UN AÉRONEF EN VOL
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Title

A System and Method for Allocating a Landing Time Slot to an Aircraft In flight

Field

The present application relates to a system and method for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft inflight. In particular but not exclusively, the present system and method allocates a landing time slot to aircraft inflight based on the time the aircraft is airborne at departure.

Background Of The Invention

One of the current challenges to aviation is reducing the congestion in major airports. Airport expansion and developing new airports to meet this demand are some of the away to address this problem. However, due to many factors, airport expansion is not always feasible.

Since 1977, Global air traffic has doubled every 15 years and continues to grow year on year. Every day more than 100,000 flights take off and land at airports across the world. Technology on board aircraft has outpaced technology on the ground and across air traffic management centres.

The International Air Transport Association (lATA) has identified almost 300 world airports with varying levels of congestion; graded into Level 3 (fully congested) and Level 2 (heavily congested) airports. Most of these congested airports are in Europe (the three main London airports, for example).

Aside from frustrated passengers, congestion also causes environment problems due to increased emissions; unnecessary cost due to increased fuel consumption and possible cancellation of flights; and bad public relations (PR) for the airport, its service provider and associated businesses.

The conventional procedure for processing aircraft for landing at an airport is outlined below.

An airline prepares a specific flight plan in line with regulatory and industry protocols. It also considers known operational variables on the day of landing and allows for contingencies (e.g. alternate destination fuel). There can be several drafts for a flight plan in advance of departure, with the final version being signed-off by the captain.

The flight takes off in line with normal airline, airport and Air Traffic Management (ATM) procedures. Usually a departure slot will be allocated to flights, particularly at International Air Transport Association (lATA) Level 3 and Level 2 congested airports. This has no bearing on the arrival time and simply allows the aircraft to depart and move into the airspace identified in the flight plan.

Once an aircraft is airborne ("wheels-up") the on-board Flight Management System (FMS) sends an airborne message (the 'alert ping') from the aircraft to the airlines Operations Control Centre (OCC) through the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) communications system. Similar alerts are sent at regular intervals throughout a flight's progression, when the aircraft passes through predetermined wayfinding points along its flight plan route. This allows the airline to track the aircraft at all stages throughout the flight.

Approach control or terminal control (at an airport) co-ordinates arrival slots in line with airfield operations on the day through its Arrivals Manager (A-MAN) system. That is, landing slots are coordinated and allocated by the Air Traffic Management provider (ATM) in line with airfield capacity and operational constraints on the day.

As the aircraft passes through various jurisdictions it may be instructed to move its position, height or speed and this will have an impact on its eventual arrival time.

Any change is input to the Flight Management System (FMS) and this regulates the flight in terms of time. Positional alert messages are relayed to the airline's Operations Control Centre (OCC) via the ACARS system which allows the airline to monitor the progress of the flight.

In the ideal scenario flights will land when they reach the airport and when an aircraft reaches approach it requests a landing slot. Approach Control regulates aircraft landing in line with airfield capacity on the day. This is subject to many variables: weather, airfield congestion, operational delays or medical emergencies; all which impact on air traffic management flow.

As is often the case in busier airports, Approach Control may advise a flight to hold for a period until a landing slot becomes available.

Once an aircraft is advised to hold it will be placed in a stack or extended vector until it is given approval to land. This can be for up to 20 minutes, or longer if operational constraints on the day are extreme.

Eventually, aircraft will be given clearance to land and called out of the stack when a landing slot is available.

It is clear from the above outline that a major issue with the conventional process for landing aircraft at an airport is that aircraft can be left in a holding pattern above the airport. This uses up valuable fuel leading to increased pollution as well as inconveniencing passengers.

Accordingly, there is a need for a system and method that addresses at least some of the drawbacks of the prior art.

Summary

Accordingly, there is provided a computer implemented method for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft inflight; the method comprising:

receiving a flight plan for an aircraft;

sending a message from the aircraft to an operations controller containing details of the time that the aircraft was airborne;

relaying the message from the operations controller to a slot allocator;

analysing by the slot allocator the airborne time of aircraft and variable data;

calculating by the slot allocator a specific time period that the aircraft should reach a predetermined geographical position; and

allocating a landing time slot while the aircraft is inflight based on the calculation.

In one aspect, the landing time slot is allocated within a predetermined time period after the aircraft is airborne.

In another aspect, the landing time slot is allocated within three minutes or less after the aircraft is airborne.

In another aspect, further comprising reallocating the landing time slot if the aircraft is not expected to reach the predetermined geographical position at the specific time.

In one aspect, the landing time slot is reallocated in response to a change in the variable data.

In one aspect, wherein the variable data comprises at least one of weather, airfield congestion, operational delays, or medical emergencies, or other variable parameters.

In another aspect, further comprising instructing the aircraft to be at the predetermined geographical position at the specific time period.

In a further aspect, instructing the aircraft to land at a destination airport during the allocated landing slot without the aircraft entering a holding pattern.

In one aspect, further comprising wherein an initial landing time slot is allocated to the aircraft prior to take off.

In another aspect, further comprising determining that the initial landing time slot is not compatible with an arrival time of the aircraft based on the analysis by the smart slot allocator.

In one aspect, further comprising initiating an algorithm to search for an alternative landing time slot from a repository containing a plurality of available landing time slots.

In a further aspect, wherein the allocated landing time slot is determined by the algorithm.

The present disclosure also relates to a system for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft inflight; the system comprising:

means for receiving a flight plan for an aircraft;

means for sending a message from the aircraft to an operations controller containing details of the time that the aircraft was airborne;

means for relaying the message from the operations controller to a slot allocator;

means for analysing by the slot allocator the airborne time of aircraft and variable data; means for calculating by the slot allocator a specific time period that the aircraft should reach a predetermined geographical position; and

means for allocating a landing time slot while the aircraft is inflight based on the calculation.

In one aspect, further comprising means for reallocating the landing time slot if the aircraft is not expected to reach the predetermined geographical position at the specific time.

In another aspect, further comprising means for instructing the aircraft to be at the predetermined geographical position at the specific time period.

In one aspect, further comprising means for instructing the aircraft to land at a destination airport during the allocated landing slot without the aircraft entering a holding pattern.

Additionally, the present disclosure relates to an article of manufacture comprising a processor-readable medium having embodied therein executable program code that when executed by the processing device causes the processing device to perform:

receiving a flight plan for an aircraft;

sending a message from the aircraft to an operations controller containing details of the time that the aircraft was airborne;

relaying the message from the operations controller to a slot allocator;

analysing by the slot allocator the airborne time of aircraft and variable data;

calculating by the slot allocator a specific time period that the aircraft should reach a predetermined geographical position; and

allocating a landing time slot while the aircraft is inflight based on the calculation.

Furthermore, the present disclosure relates a method for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft inflight; the method comprising:

receiving a flight plan for an aircraft;

sending a message from the aircraft to an operations controller containing details of the time that the aircraft was airborne;

relaying the message from the operations controller to a slot allocator;

analysing by the slot allocator the airborne time of aircraft and variable data;

determining by the slot allocator a specific time period that the aircraft should reach a predetermined geographical position;

instructing the aircraft to be at predetermined geographical position at the specific time period; and

allocating a landing time slot while the aircraft is inflight if the aircraft reaches the predetermined geographical position at the specific time period.

Additionally, the present disclosure relates a system for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft inflight; the system comprising one or more processors configured to:

receive a flight plan for an aircraft;

send a message from the aircraft to an operations controller containing details of the time that the aircraft was airborne;

relay the message from the operations controller to a slot allocator;

analyse by the slot allocator the airborne time of aircraft and variable data;

determine by the slot allocator a specific time period that the aircraft should reach a predetermined geographical position;

instruct the aircraft to be at predetermined geographical position at the specific time period; and

allocate a landing time slot while the aircraft is inflight if the aircraft reaches the predetermined geographical position at the specific time period.

In another aspect, the present disclosurerelates to a computer implemented method for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft at an airport comprising allocating a predetermined landing time slot to the aircraft, receiving an notification indicating the time that the aircraft departed from its origin, determining that the predetermined landing time slot is not compatible with an arrival time of the aircraft based on the time that the aircraft departed, initiating a slot assignment algorithm to search for an alternative landing time slot based on the arrival time of the aircraft at the airport, the alternative landing time lot being an available landing time slot in a sequence of available landing time slots as close to the arrival time as possible, and

assigning the alternative landing time slot to the aircraft.

The method may further comprise notifying an arrivals manager system for the airport of the assigned alternative landing time slot.

The method may further comprise receiving a confirmation from the arrivals manager system that the assigned alternative landing time slot is acceptable.

The method may further comprise relaying the assigned alternative landing time slot to the aircraft upon receipt of the confirmation. Optionally, the relaying is done using an airline operations control centre.

The method may further comprise storing the assigned alternative landing time slot in a database upon receipt of the confirmation.

Optionally, determining that the predetermined landing time slot is not compatible with an arrival time of the aircraft comprises the algorithm accessing a database storing an array of available landing time slots to determine the landing time slot as close to the arrival time as possible.

The method may further comprise receiving a notification indicating the aircraft's arrival time at a predetermined geographical position between the origin of the aircraft and the airport.

The method may further comprise determining that the alternative landing time slot is not compatible with an arrival time of the aircraft at the airport based on the aircraft's arrival time the predetermined geographical position.

The method may further comprise reinitiating the slot assignment algorithm to search for a second alternative landing time slot based on an arrival time of the aircraft at the airport, the second alternative landing lot being an available landing time slot in a sequence of available landing slots as close to the arrival time as possible.

A system for performing any of the steps of the aforementioned method is also disclosed.

Furthermore, the present disclosure relates to a computer-readable medium comprising non-transitory instructions which, when executed, cause a processor to carry a method for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft at an airport; the method comprising allocating a predetermined landing time slot to the aircraft, receiving an notification indicating the time that the aircraft departed from its origin, determining that the predetermined landing time slot is not compatible with an arrival time of the aircraft based on the time that the aircraft departed, initiating a slot assignment algorithm to search for an alternative landing time slot based on the arrival time of the aircraft at the airport, the alternative landing time lot being an available landing time slot in a sequence of available landing time slots as close to the arrival time as possible, and assigning the alternative landing time slot to the aircraft.

Additionally, the present disclosure relates to a system comprising one or more modules which, when executed, carry a method for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft at an airport; the method comprising allocating a predetermined landing time slot to the aircraft, receiving an notification indicating the time that the aircraft departed from its origin, determining that the predetermined landing time slot is not compatible with an arrival time of the aircraft based on the time that the aircraft departed, initiating a slot assignment algorithm to search for an alternative landing time slot based on the arrival time of the aircraft at the airport, the alternative landing time lot being an available landing time slot in a sequence of available landing time slots as close to the arrival time as possible, and assigning the alternative landing time slot to the aircraft.

It will be appreciated that the present disclosure also relates to a method for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft at an airport; the method comprising allocating a predetermined landing time slot to the aircraft, receiving an notification indicating the time that the aircraft departed from its origin, determining that the predetermined landing time slot is not compatible with an arrival time of the aircraft based on the time that the aircraft departed, initiating a slot assignment algorithm to search for an alternative landing time slot based on the arrival time of the aircraft at the airport, the alternative landing time lot being an available landing time slot in a sequence of available landing time slots as close to the arrival time as possible, and assigning the alternative landing time slot to the aircraft.

Brief Description Of The Drawings

The present application will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Fig. 1 provides an overview of how using the system in accordance with the present teachings leads to improved landing operations at an airport;

Fig. 2A provides an overview of the system architecture in accordance with the present teachings;

Fig. 2B illustrates exemplary steps of a flight process in accordance with the present disclosure using the system of Fig. 2A;

Fig. 3 shows the designation airport as part of the system in accordance with the present teachings;

Fig. 4 shows the Sign-up of an Airline, Air Traffic Control, Approach Control and Regulatory

Body to the system in accordance with the present teachings;

Fig. 5 shows the set up and planning of a flight using real time updates;

Fig. 6 shows the preparation of a flight plan;

Fig. 7 shows the booking of a landing slot for the scheduled time of arrival of the flight;

Fig. 8 shows the operations that occur during Pushback, Taxi and take-off of the flight;

Fig. 9 shows the calculation of a landing time slot in accordance with the present teachings; Fig. 10 shows the communication of the calculated landing time slot to the aircraft in accordance with the present teachings;

Fig. 1 1 shows the recalculation of a landing time slot during flight in accordance with the present teachings;

Fig. 12 shows the operations involved in flight arrival; and

Fig. 13 is a flow chart illustrating exemplary steps of a method for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft inflight in accordance with the present teaching.

Detailed Description Of The Drawings

Embodiments of the present disclosure will now be described with reference to an exemplary system and method for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft inflight. It will be understood that the exemplary architecture is provided to assist in an understanding of the present teaching and is not to be construed as limiting in any fashion. Furthermore, modules or elements that are described with reference to any one Figure may be interchanged with those of other Figures or other equivalent elements without departing from the spirit of the present teaching. The following glossary of terms are provided to aid an understanding of present disclosure and are not to be construed as limiting in any fashion.

• Smart Slot Operator: is the operator deploying the SMART Slot technology.

• SMART Slot: Scheduled Managed Arrival Reserved Time Slot. This is the unique deliverable that is calculated in Real Time by the smart slot Algorithm taking variable inputs from flight movements and live operational information in conjunction with historical and analytical data.

· Smart Slot Allocator: this is a controller operable to calculate and manage the allocation of SMART Slots.

• Smart Slot Database: Storage, processing and communications database for the smart slot operator.

• Smart Slot Algorithm: Unique algorithm that calculates the SMART Slot for an individual flight taking Real Time information into account, including; operational, flight, weather, airport, aircraft analytical and flight crew data.

• Designated Airport: Not all airports will be designated as Smart Slot compliant. A Designated Airport is one that has signed-up to the Smart Slot process, shares relevant information and fully subscribes to the fulfilment of an Electronic Flight Contract on an individual flight basis.

· Key Stakeholders: Designated Airports, Subscribing Airlines; participating Air Traffic Control providers; key regulatory bodies.

• ELCon: Electronic Flight Contract. This is an agreement between key stakeholders that when a party achieves a deliverable the others will deliver their obligations in terms achieving a SMART Slot for the airline.

· WaP: Wayfinding Point. This is a navigational point that is determined by GPS co-ordinates and is used by the industry to manage and control airspace. There are many wayfinding points during the course of a flight and airlines also use these to monitor the position of an aircraft during flight.

• Final Approach Fix (FAF): This is the last wayfinding point (WaP) that an aircraft must pass before landing. Once an aircraft is at FAF then it is cleared to land.

· Slot Ladder: Availability of slot timings at an airport for a particular time period. It is a mechanism used in the smart slot algorithm to support the calculation of a SMART Slot.

• Trigger Alert: When an aircraft becomes airborne from its departure airport it triggers an electronic alert via the airlines operations control centre that leads to the calculation and communication of a unique SMART Slot for that individual flight.

· Real Time: In the context of the present disclosure, real time is defined as live, operational and may have a short time lag of less than 3 minutes.

• ACARS: Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System. This is a digital datalink system for the transmission of short messages between an aircraft and its ground control station.

The present teaching removes the need to place aircraft in a holding pattern above an airport through a smart slot allocator system 200. The smart slot allocator system 200 dynamically allocates landing slots once the aircraft is airborne. The inventors have devised an algorithm that secures an arrival landing slot while the aircraft is inflight that takes account of the time the aircraft is airborne at departure. The system 200 may also take into account operational variables that may occur when allocating a smart slot, for example, flight, weather, airport, aircraft analytical and flight crew data. It will be appreciated that these operational variable are provided by way of example only and other operational variables maybe used by the smart slot allocator 200. The smart slot allocator system 200 avoids the need of placing the aircraft in a holding pattern above an airport during the landing process. As a consequence, the aircraft consumes less fuel and therefore generates less air and noise pollution when landing.

The smart slot allocator system 200 does not replace existing air traffic management structures currently in operation. The system 200 communicates with existing air traffic management structures and is configured to supplement and support existing systems by delivering aircraft to a nominated ATC (air traffic control) wayfinding location at a specific time. Once the aircraft reaches a nominated location at the specified time it will be given immediate clearance to land. From an airline perspective the system 200 delivers its solution through existing aircraft communications protocols. The system 200 is configured to calculate a SMART Slot in response to receiving a notification that the aircraft is airborne. In this way, the aircraft initiates a smart slot algorithm within a predetermined time period of the aircraft being airborne. For example, the smart slot is calculated within a predetermined time period such as three minutes or less.

Referring to Figure 1 , illustrates an exemplary flight process in accordance with the present teaching. An aircraft 100 takes off 101 from an airport 102, for example Dublin airport, in line with an assigned departure slot. This step is conventional. The aircraft 100 continues as normal in cruise 103. However, when the aircraft 100 approaches a specific point - "Initial Approach Fix 104", there is no assignment of the aircraft 100 to a holding pattern 107. Rather, the aircraft 100 can proceed to a "Final Approach Fix 106" and then land at the arrival airport 108, for example Gatwick airport. In short, priority landing is given to aircraft using the system 200 in accordance with the present teachings.

Fig. 2A provides an overview of the system 200 in accordance with the present teachings. A smart slot allocator module 210 communicates with other entities of an existing traffic management system such as air traffic control (A-MAN 212, arrivals manager) and an airline operations control centre (OCC) 214. The operation of the smart slot allocator system 200 will be described in more detail with reference to Figure 2B which illustrates an exemplary flight process in accordance with the present teaching. Block 1 , a flight plan 208 is uploaded to the smart slot allocator module 210 in an electronic format. This may be completed by the airlines slot desk in the Operations Control Centre (OCC) 214 through a web based portal, for example. The smart slot operator that provides the system 200 will take relevant information from the flight plan 208 and secure the arrivals slot with the airport operations and air traffic management teams - the slot will already have been requisitioned in line with the airlines published schedule. Block 2, the aircraft 100 takes off in line with normal airline, airport and Air Traffic Management (ATM) procedures. Usually a departure slot will be allocated to flights, particularly at IATA Level 3 and Level 2 congested airports. This has no bearing on the arrival time and simply allows the aircraft 100 to depart and move into the airspace identified in the flight plan 208. Block 3, once the aircraft is airborne ("wheels-up") the on-board Flight Management System (FMS) of the aircraft 100 sends an airborne message (the 'alert ping') from the aircraft 100 to the airlines Operations Control Centre 214 through the ACARS communications system. The "alert ping' is immediately relayed from the airlines OCC 214 to the smart slot allocator module 210 with details of the time that the aircraft 100 was airborne. This confirms that the aircraft 100 has departed the airport 102 and is en-route to the airport 108. Block 3a, the smart slot allocator module 210 analyses the inputs from the airlines flight plan 208, the airborne time, conditions at the arrival airport 108 and requests an arrival slot in line with these variables. Block 3b, A-MAN 212 will be expecting the arriving flight, in accordance with the published timetable. At this time, there will be a number of unallocated landing slots. Block 3c, the smart slot allocator module 210 executes an algorithm and requests a specific slot from the airport 108 ATM provider based on the airlines final flight plan 208 and the aircraft airborne time from its departure airport 102. In most cases this will be earlier than the scheduled time of arrival (STA) that is published by the airline. This is a unique feature that is not provided by airports or ATM providers. To achieve the arrival slot the system 200 will co-ordinate with the airport authority and the ATM provider; and once the aircraft 100 reaches a nominated wayfinding point (the Approach Fix 104) at a specific time identified by the smart slot algorithm; then the aircraft 100 will be given an unimpeded vector approach to landing. This is the SMART Slot.

Block 4 represents the cruise phase, this is usually the longest part of the flight as once the aircraft reaches its cruise level it is well en-route to its destination. Block 4a represents an enroute change to the flight path of the aircraft 100, for example, as the aircraft 100 passes through various jurisdictions it may be instructed to move its position, height or speed and this will have an impact on its eventual arrival time. Block 4b, if any of the air navigation service providers (ANSP's) advise changes during the flight these will be fed back to the smart slot allocator module 210 by the OCC 214 via the ACARS system. The system 200 will immediately secure an alternative SMART Slot, preferably, as close to the original as possible - and relay this back to the aircraft 100 via the OCC and ACARS in a real time 'dynamic loop'. The pilot will update the FMS and the aircraft will rendezvous with the Approach Fix 104 at the specified time, thus enabling the flight to land as planned.

Block 5, approach control will be expecting a flight that has secured a SMART Slot and will give approval to land, unless an unforeseen operational situation arises. The aircraft will not be placed in a holding stack 107 or extended vector approach. Block 6, the aircraft 100 will be given immediate clearance to land once they have met the requirement of reaching the Approach Fix 104 at the

specified time. The aircraft will have achieved its SMART Slot. Block 7, the system 200 will provide an Approach Fix location 104 to the aircraft 100 that has been agreed with both the airport authority and the ATM provider. This 3-way agreement, between the airline, the airport and the ATM provider, is a form of Electronic Contract that is unique to a specific flight and is the basis of the SMART Slot. Once the aircraft 100 reaches the Approach Fix 104 at the specified time, the air traffic management provider will approve landing that will be facilitated by the airport and the Electronic Contract is fulfilled. Block 8, the aircraft 100 lands at the destination airport 108 during the smart slot that was allocated to that aircraft 100 enroute. It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, that during a traditional flight process known heretofore requires the aircraft 100 to enter a holding pattern 107 prior to landing. Approach Control may advise an aircraft to hold for a period until a landing slot becomes available. Once an aircraft is advised to hold it will be placed in a stack or extended vector until it is given approval to land. This can be for up to 20 minutes, or longer if operational constraints on the day are extreme. It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the landing process in accordance with the present teaching as illustrated eliminates the need to place an aircraft in a holding pattern by using the system 200 to dynamically allocate a smart slot in accordance with the present teaching.

Fig. 3 shows exemplary steps relating to the designation airport as part of the system 200 in accordance with the present teachings.

Block 1 .1 IATA (International Air Transport Association) produces listings of congested world airports on a regular basis. These listings are available on its website. The listing is updated annually by IATA and accessed on demand by a smart slot operator in accordance with the present teaching.

Block 1 .2 The smart slot operator will maintain a database of airlines operating between IATA congested airports. This is typically updated twice per year in line with the change in airline schedules.

Block 1 .3 The smart slot operator will identify and select the appropriate airports that will be invited to become part of a smart slot airport Network. Criteria for selection will be dictated by the smart slot operator commercial and operational requirements. This Network is a unique collection of airports that will be linked through the system 200 communications system and managed by the smart slot operator utilising the smart slot allocator module 210. There is no other similar or existing linking of airports into such a Network anywhere in the world.

Block 1 .4 The smart slot operator will consult with key stakeholders (airport authorityl .5; air traffic control 1 .6; regulator authority 1 .7 and Electronic Flight contract 1 .8) in order to promote a particular airline and/or an airport. Such consultations will become bi-lateral after agreement with individual stakeholders is reached.

Block 1 .5 Airports will contract to allow arriving flights that have been provided with a SMART Slot to land at the agreed time.

Block 1 .6 Air Traffic Control will contract that once a flight reaches an agreed wayfinding point at the appropriate time (SMART Slot) it will approve immediate landing.

Block 1 .7 The Stakeholder Triumvirate (Airline, Air Traffic Control and Airport) will agree that the SMART Slot calculated by the smart slot module 210 will form an Electronic Flight Contract ("ELCon") for an individual flight. This ELCon will be repeated as often as there are flights between the appropriate airport pairing.

Block 1 .8 While a SMART Slot does not require regulatory approval, the appropriate Regulatory Authority for the airline and airport will be included in all communication.

Block 1 .9 When all of the stakeholders have agreed on the methodology and fully understand the concept of both the "Smart Slot" and "Electronic Contract" the airport will be designated as smart slot Compliant. Accordingly, it will become part of the smart slot airport Network.

Fig. 4 shows exemplary steps relating to the sign-up of an airline, Air Traffic Control, Approach Control and Regulatory Body to the system 200 in accordance with the present teachings.

Block 1 .9 Airport listing will have been designated as smart slot compliant (blocks 1 .1 - 1 .8)

Block 2.1 Airline will be selected in line with the commercial and operational strategy of the smart slot operator.

Block 2.2 The airlines route network will be made available to the smart slot operator following negotiation with the relevant airline. Prior to securing an agreement the smart slot operator will use available public information in order to complete an assessment of the airlines requirements

Block 2.3 The Designated Airport will be included in the process that selects the airline (see section 1 for the assessment and selection process for airports).

Block 2.4 Local and Approach Air Traffic Control will be included in the sign-up process. Part of this process will include the airline agreeing that its air traffic management information will be provided to the smart slot operator for the purpose of supporting the calculation and execution of the SMART Slot.

Block 2.5 The smart slot operator will engage with the airline to negotiate commercial terms that will be covered by a separate commercial agreement.

Block 2.6 Operational Data will be requested from the key stakeholders and provided to smart slot operator in a format that will be specified in advance. A protocol will be agreed between all parties to ensure all supplied data is correct, appropriate, robust and shareable.

Block 2.7 Once the required data is verified and tested it will be uploaded to the smart slot database.

Fig. 5 shows exemplary steps relating to the set up and planning of a flight using real time updates.

Block 2.7 Data will have been uploaded to the smart slot database and verified as being fit for purpose by the smart slot operator and Key Stakeholders

Block 3.1 The airline will take the relevant data from smart slot Database and promulgate to its own internal systems. The smart slot operator will support efforts as required but this will remain a task and responsibility for the airline.

Block 3.2 The airline will ensure that it's relevant operational departments, including but not limited to: the Slot Desk, Flight Operations and Operations Control will have all appropriate and validated data that is pertinent to each individual flight movement. The smart slot Database will be updated in Real Time with any amends and changes.

Block 3.3 Air Traffic Control will take the relevant data from the smart slot Database and promulgate to its own internal systems. The smart slot operator will support efforts as required but this will remain a task and responsibility for air traffic control (ATC).

Block 3.4 ATC will ensure that it's relevant line departments and flow management systems, including but not limited to: the Approach Control, Arrivals Manager. (A-MAN) and Extended Arrivals Manager (X-MAN) will have all appropriate and validated data that is pertinent to each individual flight movement. The smart slot Database will be updated in Real Time with any amends and changes.

Block 3.5 The Airport Authority will take the relevant data from the smart slot Database and promulgate to its own internal systems. The smart slot operator will support efforts as required but this will remain a task and responsibility for the airport.

Block 3.6 The Airport Authority will ensure that it's relevant operational departments, including but not limited to: Schedules Planning, Ground Control and Parking Allocation will have all appropriate and validated data that is pertinent to each individual flight movement. The smart slot Database will be updated in Real Time with any amends and changes.

Fig. 6 shows exemplary steps relating to Fig. 6 shows to the preparation of a flight plan.

Block 4.1 The airline produces and publishes an initial flight schedule approximately one year in advance of flight departure. There can be a number of versions before a final schedule is produced. Occasionally there can be amends to the schedule once the final version has been posted. All versions of the airlines schedule will be uploaded to the smart slot Database.

Block 4.2 In advance of flight departure the airlines operations control department produces an initial flight plan 208 that takes standard and known information into account with average fuel and other load weights into account. Closer to the flight an amended flight plan can be produced when known operational variables (such as weather, en-route congestion and airport minima are available. The final flight plan 208 is posted after the flight crew sign-off prior to departure.

All versions of the flight plan 208 will be uploaded to the smart slot Database, in addition to being posted to the systems of other stakeholders in the flight process (en-route ATC and Arrivals Airport).

Block 4.3 The smart slot module 210 is in communication with the smart slot Database and will judiciously select key information from the flight plan 208 that will be used by the smart slot Algorithm to calculate the SMART Slot. This data will be amended in Real Time as updates are received by the smart slot Database.

Block 4.4 The airline will transfer agreed flight movement and operational data to Air Traffic Control in line with normal procedure. The smart slot Database will receive updates in Real Time

Block 4.5 The airline will transfer agreed flight movement and operational data to the arrival airport in line with normal procedure. The smart slot Database will receive updates in Real Time

Fig. 7 shows exemplary steps relating to the booking of a landing slot for the scheduled time of arrival of the flight.

Block 5.1 The smart slot Database will store a listing of all available slots as determined by ATC for the arrival airport. Each airport will have a unique listing of slots, referred to by smart slot operator as the "Slot Ladder 300", as determined by flight separation at that airport for normal operations (flight separation will change during periods of disruption). Changes will be updated in Real Time to the smart slot Database.

Block 5.2 The Slot Ladder 300 will show the expected flights for the time period. These are generally clustered around times that are seen as 'customer-friendly'; the marketing times, and a number of airlines may be scheduled to operate at the same time.

Block 5.3 The smart slot Algorithm will separate the flight movements into departures and arrivals, in order to determine an optimum reserved slot for the airline.

Block 5.4 The smart slot Algorithm will separate the flight movements into departures and arrivals, in order to determine an optimum reserved slot for the airline.

Block 5.5 The smart slot Algorithm will reserve a slot for the airline at its published scheduled time. This becomes the booked slot and will be automatically processed 24 hours in advance of flight arrival. This is a unique feature that is made possible by the smart slot Algorithm.

Block 5.6 When the aircraft is airborne from its departure airport it generates a message to the airline's Operations Control Centre (OCC) 214. This is instantly relayed to the smart slot module 210 as a Trigger Alert and the smart slot Algorithm calculates a SMART Slot for the particular flight which is relayed to the aircraft in Real Time.

Block 5.7 When the SMART Slot has been advised to the airline an Electronic Contract (ELCon) will be in place between the airline, the airport and ATC: once the aircraft reaches a nominated Wayfinding Point (WaP) at the time specified by ATC the airline will have fulfilled its part of the ELCon and ATC will advise a vectored approach to immediate landing; thereby eliminating the need for the aircraft to join a holding stack 107. Once the aircraft has landed the ELCon will have been fulfilled.

Fig. 8 shows exemplary steps relating to the operations that occur during Pushback, Taxi and takeoff of the flight.

Block 6.1 The flight will undergo all of its normal processes and procedures to effect departure. Ideally, this will be as scheduled (the STD) but if there is a delay in departure this will not have any bearing on the downstream calculation of the SMART Slot as this is activated by the Trigger Alert only when the aircraft is airborne.

Block 6.2 The aircraft will be given clearance to pushback by local ATC when all of the departure formalities are finalised.

Block 6.3 ATC will then advise the aircraft that it has clearance to taxi to the appropriate runway.

Block 6.4 ATC will then taxi. There may be a fast taxi, or some delay, depending on apron and taxiway activity.

Block 6.5 Flight takes off as normal and is monitored and directed by local ATC.

Block 6.6. When the aircraft is airborne from its departure airport it generates a flight message that is conveyed to the airline's Operations Control Centre (OCC) 214 via ACARS.

Block 6.7 The airline's OCC registers the individual flight airborne time in its database.

Block 6.8 The OCC system instantly relays the airborne time to the smart slot Database as a Trigger Alert. The smart slot Algorithm then calculates a SMART Slot for the particular flight which is relayed to the aircraft in Real Time.

Fig. 9 shows exemplary steps relating to the calculation of a landing time slot in accordance with the present teachings.

Block 6.8 The OCC system 214 instantly relays the airborne time to the smart slot module 210 as a Trigger Alert. This is relayed in Real Time.

Block 7.1 The smart slot Database will have the required and Real Time data in order to calculate a SMART Slot. Once the airborne time is uploaded the smart slot Algorithm will commence the process and a SMART Slot will be calculated and relayed to the aircraft within a predetermined time period, for example 3 minutes, (through the airline's OCC and via ACARS).

Block 7.2 The smart slot Algorithm will compare the airborne time to the expected airborne time and determine if the flight is operating as expected or if it is delayed. The algorithm will calculate the best possible arrival slot based on these variables in Real Time.

Block 7.3 If the flight is NOT on time the smart slot module 210 will consult the Slot Ladder 300 and secure the best available slot.

Block 7.4 If the flight is on time the smart slot module 210 under the control of the smart slot Algorithm will extrapolate an arrival time taking all operational variables into account.

Block 7.5 The Slot Ladder 300 will have Real Time data on the available slots at the arrival airport for the period of the flight movement.

Block 7.6 The smart slot Algorithm will determine the best available slot that will be as close to the original booked slot as possible.

Block 7.7 The smart slot Algorithm will determine the earliest available slot.

Block 7.8 If an earlier slot is not available the smart slot Algorithm will continue with the booked slot.

Block 7.9 The smart slot Algorithm will determine the best available slot and secure this in the smart slot Database.

Block 7.10 The earlier reserved slot will be secured by the GATMS Algorithm.

Block 7.1 1 The best available slot will then be confirmed to the smart slot Database.

Block 7.12 Once the best available slot has been secured in the smart slot Database it will be formally confirmed to the arrival airport A-MAN system 212. The smart slot Database will then be updated to reflect the slot confirmation by ATC at the arrival airport. The entire process will take a matter of minutes, and is expected to take no more than 3 minutes.

Fig. 10 shows exemplary steps relating to the communication of the calculated landing time slot to the aircraft in accordance with the present teachings. .

Block 8.1 The smart slot Database will have been be updated in Real Time to reflect the slot confirmation by ATC at the arrival airport. This will be relayed to the airline's OCC as a SMART Slot.

The airline will have agreed with the smart slot operator that it's part of the ELCon will be to reach the nominated WaP at the specified time; i.e. the SMART Slot.

Block 8.2 The smart slot module 210 will relay the SMART Slot to the airline's OCC for transmission to the aircraft 100.

Block 8.3 The SMART Slot will be input to the ACARS system in line with normal airline process for updating an aircraft in flight and will comply with existing data formats and protocols.

Block 8.4 The SMART Slot will be transferred to the aircraft in Real Time and uploading to the aircraft will be within 2 minutes from data entry.

Block 8.5 The pilot will receive the data inflight via the ACARS communications system. The pilot may manually update the Flight Management System (FMS) with the SMART Slot data.

Block 8.6 The FMS will adjust the flight variables in accordance with the SMART Slot data. This could mean speeding up, slowing down or amending a flight vector.

Fig. 1 1 shows exemplary steps relating to the recalculation of a landing time slot during flight in accordance with the present teachings.

Block 9.1 The smart slot system 200 monitors the flight progress in Real Time through the input of updates from the aircraft 100 passing through a WaP (specific WaP's are identified in the final flight plan).

Block 9.2 An en-route Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) may instruct a flight to amend its speed, height or vectoring and this could impact the SMART Slot.

Block 9.3 When en-route chances are advised the airlines OCC are informed in line with normal protocol. The OCC will relay any update to the smart slot Database.

Block 9.4 The smart slot module 210 will be alerted via the WaP monitoring system with a secondary alert from the airline's OCC 214.

Block 9.5 The smart slot module 210 will consult the Slot Ladder 300 to determine the options that are available for arrival slots that are consistent with the initial SMART Slot.

Block 9.6 The smart slot module 210 will review and determine if an earlier slot is available.

Block 9.7 If an earlier slot is available then it will be reserved by the smart slot module 210.

Block 9.8 If a suitable slot (earlier, initial reserved or original SMART Slot time) is not available then best available will be secured by the smart slot module 210.

Block 9.9 The smart slot Database will confirm the new slot with the Arrivals Manager system (A-MAN 212).

Block 9.10 When the amended slot has been confirmed the smart slot Database will be updated with the new (amended) slot.

Block 9.1 1 The smart slot Database will advise the amended SMART Slot to the airline's OCC.

Block 9.12 The amended SMART Slot will be uploaded to the aircraft vis ACARS in Real Time and the flight variables will be will be altered in accordance with the new SMART Slot data.

Fig. 12 shows exemplary steps relating to the operations involved in flight arrival. .

Block 10.1 Once the flight has completed its cruise phase 103 will commence the arrival protocol. The aircraft will have passed through many WaP locations during the flight and will reach the nominated WaP that has been specified in the SMART Slot.

Block 10.2 When the flight reaches the nominated WaP, Approach Control ATC determine if it has complied with the terms of the SMART Slot.

Block 10.3 If the SMART Slot timings have been achieved, then Approach Control will give the aircraft an unimpeded vectored approach to the Final Approach Fix (FAF) 106. The time lag between the WaP specified as part of the SMART Slot and landing will differ between airports and the level of flight activity on the day. However this will be the shortest duration possible and will not unduly delay arrival.

Block 10.4 Once the aircraft reaches the FAF 106 it will have a clear path to landing.

Block 10.5 The aircraft landing will be monitored by the Airport Authority in line with its ELCon deliverables.

Block 10.6 Once the aircraft lands the ELCon for that individual flight will deem to have been fulfilled.

Block 10.7 If the SMART Slot timings have NOT been achieved, then Approach Control will determine a new landing slot for the flight.

Block 10.8 The aircraft may be directed by Approach Control to enter a holding stack or take an extended vector approach as it has missed it's SMART Slot. It will join other flights and await its turn to land, having given up its 'priority' status by not achieving the time associated with the SMART Slot.

Block 10.9 The flight will then be given landing instructions as normal.

The flow chart 400 of Fig. 13 illustrates exemplary steps for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft inflight. The method may comprise receiving a flight plan for an aircraft; step 405. Sending a message from the aircraft to an operations controller containing details of the time that the aircraft was airborne; step 410. Relaying the message from the operations controller to a slot allocator; step 415. Analysing by the slot allocator the airborne time of aircraft and variable data; Step 420. Calculating by the slot allocator a specific time period that the aircraft should reach a predetermined geographical position; Step 425. Allocating a landing time slot while the aircraft is inflight based on the calculation, step 428.

The techniques introduced here can be embodied as special purpose hardware (e.g. circuitry), or as programmable circuitry appropriately programmed with software and/or firmware, or as a

combination of special-purpose and programmable circuitry. Hence various embodiments may include a machine-readable medium having stored thereon instructions which may be used to program a computer (or other electronic devices) to perform a process. The machine readable medium may include, but is not limited to, optical disks, compact disk read-only memories (CD-

ROMs), and magneto-optical disk, ROMs, erasable programmable read-only memories (EPROMs), electrically erasable programmable read-only memories (EEPROMs), magnetic or optical cards, flash memory, Solid State Drives (SSDs) or other type of media/machine-readable medium suitable for storing electronic instructions.

It will be understood that what has been described herein is an exemplary system and method for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft inflight. While the present teaching has been described with reference to exemplary arrangements it will be understood that it is not intended to limit the teaching to such arrangements as modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present teaching.

It will be understood that while exemplary features of the system and method in accordance with the present teaching have been described that such an arrangement is not to be construed as limiting the invention to such features. The method of the present teaching may be implemented in software, firmware, hardware, or a combination thereof. In one mode, the method is implemented in software, as an executable program, and is executed by one or more special or general purpose digital computer(s), such as a personal computer (PC; IBM-compatible, Apple-compatible, or otherwise), personal digital assistant, workstation, minicomputer, or mainframe computer. The steps of the method may be implemented by a server or computer in which the software modules reside or partially reside.

Generally, in terms of hardware architecture, such a computer will include, as will be well understood by the person skilled in the art, a processor, memory, and one or more input and/or output (I/O) devices (or peripherals) that are communicatively coupled via a local interface. The local interface can be, for example, but not limited to, one or more buses or other wired or wireless connections, as is known in the art. The local interface may have additional elements, such as controllers, buffers (caches), drivers, repeaters, and receivers, to enable communications. Further, the local interface may include address, control, and/or data connections to enable appropriate communications among the other computer components.

The processor(s) may be programmed to perform the functions of the method for allocating a landing time slot to an aircraft at an airport. The processor(s) is a hardware device for executing software, particularly software stored in memory. Processor(s) can be any custom made or commercially available processor, a primary processing unit (CPU), an auxiliary processor among several processors associated with a computer, a semiconductor based microprocessor (in the form of a microchip or chip set), a macro-processor, or generally any device for executing software instructions.

Memory is associated with processor(s) and can include any one or a combination of volatile memory elements (e.g., random access memory (RAM, such as DRAM, SRAM, SDRAM, etc.)) and non-volatile memory elements (e.g., ROM, hard drive, tape, CDROM, etc.). Moreover, memory may

incorporate electronic, magnetic, optical, and/or other types of storage media. Memory can have a distributed architecture where various components are situated remote from one another, but are still accessed by processor(s).

The software in memory may include one or more separate programs. The separate programs comprise ordered listings of executable instructions for implementing logical functions in order to implement the functions of the modules. In the example of heretofore described, the software in memory includes the one or more components of the method and is executable on a suitable operating system (O/S).

The present disclosure may include components provided as a source program, executable program (object code), script, or any other entity comprising a set of instructions to be performed. When a source program, the program needs to be translated via a compiler, assembler, interpreter, or the like, which may or may not be included within the memory, so as to operate properly in connection with the O/S. Furthermore, a methodology implemented according to the teaching may be expressed as (a) an object oriented programming language, which has classes of data and methods, or (b) a procedural programming language, which has routines, subroutines, and/or functions, for example but not limited to, C, C++, Pascal, Basic, Fortran, Cobol, Perl, Java, and Ada.

When the method is implemented in software, it should be noted that such software can be stored on any computer readable medium for use by or in connection with any computer related system or method. In the context of this teaching, a computer readable medium is an electronic, magnetic, optical, or other physical device or means that can contain or store a computer program for use by or in connection with a computer related system or method. Such an arrangement can be embodied in any computer-readable medium for use by or in connection with an instruction execution system, apparatus, or device, such as a computer-based system, processor-containing system, or other system that can fetch the instructions from the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device and execute the instructions. In the context of this disclosure, a "computer-readable medium" can be any means that can store, communicate, propagate, or transport the program for use by or in connection with the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device. The computer readable medium can be for example, but not limited to, an electronic, magnetic, optical, electromagnetic, infrared, or semiconductor system, apparatus, device, or propagation medium. Any process descriptions or blocks in the Figures, should be understood as representing modules, segments, or portions of code which include one or more executable instructions for implementing specific logical functions or steps in the process, as would be understood by those having ordinary skill in the art.

The above detailed description of embodiments of the disclosure is not intended to be exhaustive nor to limit the disclosure to the exact form disclosed. While specific examples for the disclosure are described above for illustrative purposes, those skilled in the relevant art will recognize various modifications are possible within the scope of the disclosure. For example, while processes and blocks have been demonstrated in a particular order, different implementations may perform routines or employ systems having blocks, in an alternate order, and some processes or blocks may be deleted, supplemented, added, moved, separated, combined, and/or modified to provide different combinations or sub-combinations. Each of these processes or blocks may be implemented in a variety of alternate ways. Also, while processes or blocks are at times shown as being performed in sequence, these processes or blocks may instead be performed or implemented in parallel or may be performed at different times. The results of processes or blocks may be also held in a non-persistent store as a method of increasing throughput and reducing processing requirements.

In general, the terms used in the following claims should not be construed to limit the disclosure to the specific examples disclosed in the specification, unless the above detailed description explicitly defines such terms. Accordingly, the actual scope of the disclosure encompasses not only the disclosed examples, but also all equivalent ways of practicing or implementing the disclosure under the claims.

From the foregoing, it will be appreciated that specific embodiments of the disclosure have been described herein for purposes of illustration, but that various modifications may be made without deviating from the spirit and scope of the disclosure. Accordingly the disclosure is not limited.

The words comprises/comprising when used in this specification are to specify the presence of stated features, integers, steps or components but does not preclude the presence or addition of one or more other features, integers , steps, components or groups thereof.