This page provides general information about the Terminal Flight Data Manager (TFDM) program and serves as the program's portal to industry for communications from the TFDM program office.

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About TFDM

The FAA is developing a new surface management solution for NextGen called Terminal Flight Data Manager. As demand for our nation's airspace grows, smarter NextGen technologies are making air travel more efficient, safer, and environmentally friendly. TFDM will help save time and fuel, reduce emissions, and improve the experience for the flying public.

This new system will work by integrating digital flight plans with surface surveillance data to create accurate, real-time predictive tools for the terminal environment. TFDM will share data among controllers, aircraft operators, and airports so they can better stage arrivals and departures, and manage traffic flow within terminal airspace for greater efficiency.

Stakeholders will have a shared awareness of flights on the ground and in the air; the ability to exchange data electronically; a constantly updated picture of traffic volume, weather, and other changing circumstances; and more accurate predictive modeling.

TFDM's powerful tools will help stakeholders make flights more efficient from gate to gate. Its capabilities will be implemented incrementally beginning in 2020.

What is the Current State?

At most airports, paper flight strips are being used to monitor and share flight plans, requiring controllers to handle and communicate safety-critical data manually.

Traffic predictions and decisions are tied to flight plan data that is difficult to update and to share between stakeholders. Flight plans are used to estimate arrivals, gate push-backs, routings, and departures. Their use in the tactical decisions made in handling the more than 40,000 flights daily can lead to inefficiencies across the national airspace system.

In addition, aircraft operators currently board passengers and push back from the gates before flights are given slots in line for departure. This can lead to tarmac congestion and wasted fuel with aircraft idling as they wait to join the departure queue.

How Does TFDM Work?

TFDM works by providing the following for the Airport Surface:

  • Digital flight plan data shared in real time with controllers, aircraft operators, and airports.
  • Predictive modeling and common situational awareness based on actual surface surveillance data.
  • Electronic data exchange between controllers, aircraft operators, and airports.
  • Enhanced surface-management capabilities.
  • Collaborative decision-support tools.

By combining a common situational awareness with collaborative decision-support tools, TFDM will help aircraft operators, controllers, and airports stage arrivals and departures more efficiently. TFDM's digital flight plan data will improve traffic planning, and its predictive capabilities will help stakeholders handle dynamic traffic situations. With TFDM, there will be more efficient movement on airport surfaces and in the airborne phases of flight.

TFDM Benefits

  • Real-time accuracy: Accurate data from surface surveillance in continuously updated capacity-and-demand predictions will decrease time aircraft spend waiting to taxi, improve the traffic flow, and help prevent missed connections.
  • Collaborative decisions: By connecting aircraft operators, controllers, and airports with digital flight plans, shared surface surveillance data, and collaborative decision-support tools, TFDM will help stakeholders work together to optimize flights. This will save time and fuel, reduce emissions, and improve the experience for passengers.
  • Connected stakeholders: TFDM lets stakeholders exchange data electronically to make faster and more informed tactical decisions regarding traffic volume changes, weather, and other evolving situations.
  • Better predictive tools: TFDM uses surface surveillance and flow-management capabilities in its predictive modeling for improved departure management, ground movement, and flight coordination.
  • Environmentally friendly: Reduced taxi times, fewer delays and missed connections, and greater predictability with TFDM will save fuel and reduce emissions.

TFDM Status and Next Steps

The FAA laid the groundwork for TFDM with concept development and human-in-the-loop testing, and by conducting an extensive investment analysis that included a market survey and 2014 Technical Industry Forum.

Industry Forum Materials

The FAA's Joint Resources Council approved the initial scope, goals, and schedule of the TFDM program in 2012 and made the initial investment decision in March, 2014. The Screening Information Request (SIR) was released March, 2015. Vendor selection and a final investment decision is planned for March, 2016.

Previous (cancelled) TFDM RFIs and SIRs:

Contact Us

  • Michael Huffman, TFDM Program Manager
  • Leslie Fisher, TFDM Contracting Officer

Contact the TFDM team