The eyes and ears of the airport

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Delays. Unquestionably one of the most frustrating and expensive parts of civil aviation. And they don’t come cheap either. A study by Airlines for America calculated the cost of flight delays to be in the region of US$9bn. In Europe, a similar study concluded that delays cost as much as €11bn (US$12bn) every year. Amazingly, these staggering amounts don’t even take into account the cost to passengers for missed connections, alternative travel and accommodation costs, or the overall impact to the passenger experience that we all strive to improve upon.

The air transport process is a complex system with many stakeholders and moving parts and, as a result, delays can be caused by any number of factors. Although many are unavoidable, the industry is proactively developing new initiatives that will help stakeholders manage and minimize the impact of delays on the rest of the network. Airport collaborative decision making (A-CDM) is being implemented by both Eurocontrol and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as one way of improving communication across the airport and air traffic networks.

The principle of A-CDM is to share information between the various stakeholders within the turnaround process. This up-to-date single source of information is used to generate accurate operational data for the Network Manager Operations Centre (NMOC) in order to efficiently manage airspace requirements.

On the tarmac, improved access to real-time information leads to better resource utilization for ground handlers and airport operators. Meanwhile, airlines benefit from reduced taxi times and improved on-time performance, which are all key enablers for increasing airport capacity.

Second generation

The data that A-CDM generates allows airport operators to benchmark performance and identify improvement areas. In an environment where capacity constraints are not an uncommon scenario, continuous improvement may be the key to delaying capital investment for a number of years. So with that in mind, I think it’s worth exploring where A-CDM ‘phase 2’ might be able to offer further efficiencies.

Thinking of the practical challenges of delivering A-CDM, accuracy of data is crucial; every minute matters and has a cumulative impact. The key protagonists need to be able to communicate status in real time – or as close to real time as possible. However, in some situations, that simply isn’t possible. For example, due to the aforementioned capacity challenges, remote stands are increasingly used. These stands clearly don’t have the same connectivity to the communication networks that stands at the terminal have. So what happens if there is an unforeseen issue with the turnaround that will delay the flight?

The aircraft isn’t going anywhere, but the dispatcher doesn’t have a method of inputting this information into the AODB in real time. This means that resources are needlessly being allocated that could be more efficiently redeployed where needed. Plus, air traffic slots remain valid when another flight could benefit.

If the AODB is the brains of the airport, then the data input is the eyes and ears. The success of AODB, and therefore A-CDM, in this increasingly pressurized environment depends on the quality, validity and timing of the supplied data. In my view, the next generation of A-CDM needs to empower those who hold information to be able to share it, regardless of their location on the airfield.

On show

Lockheed Martin will be attending World ATM Congress 2016 on March 8-10 in Madrid, Spain, and Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 on March 15-17 in Cologne, Germany, where we will be demonstrating our mobile AODB application that can connect information from Apple/Android mobile devices directly into any third-party AODB.

About the author

Simon Critchley has more than 16 years’ experience within the aviation industry in operational roles at Manchester Airport, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and at the heart of a technology solution environment. Simon currently manages the roadmap for Lockheed Martin’s Chroma Airport Operational Suite. 

Article originally published here.

February 29, 2016

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About Author

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Kirstie joined the team in early 2017 and brings writing, communications and client experience with her. Now an assistant editor, she produces content for our magazines and websites. Away from the office, you will find her blogging on her lifestyle website or searching the internet for photos of sausage dogs.

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