Less noisy and more sustainable landings and approaches to airports

Success for the Swiss-French-German project by DLR, THALES, SkyLab, Swiss Air Lines and EMPA for intelligent pilot assistance systems

A Swiss International Air Lines airplane landing
A Swiss International Air Lines airplane landing

The approach and landing of passenger jets to their final destination is often a burden on people and the environment.
The DYNCAT project, in which Swiss researchers are collaborating with other partners in Germany and France, aims to implement approaches to airports that cause less noise and CO2 emissions, thanks to intelligent assistance systems for pilots.
DYNCAT (abbreviation of “DYNamic Configuration Adjustment in the Terminal Manoeuvring Area”) is a collaborative project of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), headquarters in Braunschweig, the French group THALES, the Swiss SkyLab Foundation, the Swiss International Air Lines and the Laboratory Swiss Federal Agency for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA).
The project, which began in mid-2020 and is expected to last until the end of 2022, is funded by the SESAR Joint Undertaking under the European Union's research and innovation program "Horizon 2020".

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The pilots, controls and cockpit of a jet reserved for passenger transport
The pilots, controls and cockpit of a jet reserved for passenger transport
(Source: Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt)

In addition to the wind and other external factors, the skills of the crew in the cabin are decisive

Approaching an airport is a real challenge for passenger jet pilots: reduce speed, extend flaps and speed brakes, and much more, all while keeping noise and fuel consumption to a minimum.
Furthermore, air traffic control limits the approach attitude and weather conditions are sometimes known only approximately.
In short, in addition to wind and other external factors, cabin crew skills are a key factor in determining final destination approach capability that is capable of meeting all of these requirements.

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DYNCAT aims for less noisy and polluting approaches and landings
The DYNCAT project, in which Swiss researchers are collaborating with other partners in Germany and France, aims to implement approaches to airports that cause less noise and CO2 emissions, thanks to intelligent assistance systems for pilots

The potential and kinetic energy of the jet is dissipated through aerodynamic drag

To optimize this process, the DYNCAT project, led by the aforementioned German Aerospace Center, aims to enable more uniform and more environmentally friendly flight profiles.
In particular, it does so during the approach, helping pilots to configure the aircraft effectively and, at the same time, to land more efficiently in terms of fuel consumption.
This involves dissipating the jet's potential and kinetic energy through drag, which in turn can be tuned through the configuration of the aircraft.
Ideally, this means an approach to the airport without increasing thrust, which would add more power to the aircraft, use more fuel, and generate more noise.

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Controlling the wing and flaps in the cockpit of an airplane
Controlling the wing and flaps in the cockpit of an airplane
(Source: Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt)

New assistance features including flap and landing gear optimisations

As part of the project, the team developed new onboard system functions that support pilots during approaches, with recommendations that the crew can choose to follow or ignore.
They include optimized flap and landing gear settings to reduce noise and fuel consumption, finely tuned to the complex interaction of all factors and requirements.
To demonstrate the ability of these features to reduce noise and CO2 emissions, simulator flights were conducted with experienced pilots at the Thales aviation group in Toulouse.

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A Swiss International Air Lines airplane landing
A Swiss International Air Lines airplane landing

The goal of approaching computer testing? Zurich Airport, runway 14

The target of the virtual approach to train commanders, first officers and flight engineers was runway 14 at Zurich Kloten Airport.
In the chosen situation, the air traffic controller instructed the pilots to take a lateral shortcut during the descent, which puts the aircraft in a so-called "over-energy" condition.
This means that the aircraft has excessive potential and kinetic energy which must be dissipated during the approach and landing, but without creating unnecessary noise and without consuming more fuel.
This is a particularly difficult situation for the drivers, for whom different strategies are possible.

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A flight simulator from the THALES group used for the DYNCAT project
A flight simulator from the THALES group used for the DYNCAT project
(Photo: THALES)

Advantages visible in a film of the EMPA Acoustics and Noise Control Laboratory

Researchers from the Acoustics and Noise Control Laboratory at EMPA have illustrated the effects of the assistance system in a video.
It shows the noise impact of two comparable flights: one with DYNCAT assistance and a reference flight without.
The sonAIR aeronautical noise model, developed at EMPA, calculated the noise nuisance level of the two ground flights, quantifying the benefits of the new system.

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DYNCAT aims for less noisy and polluting approaches and landings
The DYNCAT project, in which Swiss researchers are collaborating with other partners in Germany and France, aims to implement approaches to airports that cause less noise and CO2 emissions, thanks to intelligent assistance systems for pilots

A good 55 kilograms of fuel less from the start of the descent thanks to DYNCAT

Overall, simulations and calculations have shown that DYNCAT approaches are quieter and use less fuel.
In the case of the two variants described in the video, the "DYNCAT flight" consumed 55 kg of propellant less from the start of the descent and was up to four decibels quieter: a substantial relief, therefore.
Despite the partly contradictory high demands on climate-friendly and low-noise flight, the “DYNamic Configuration Adjustment in the Terminal Manoeuvring Area” system made it possible to achieve both goals more effectively.

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All about the DYNCAT project for more sustainable and less noisy approaches and landings

The reduction of aircraft noise thanks to DYNCAT
The target of the virtual approach to train commanders, first officers and flight engineers was Runway 14 at Zurich Kloten Airport: the DYNCAT project achieved a significant reduction in landing noise