Eurocontrol wanted to see if it could develop a “low-cost, low-workload, simplified approach” to turnaround monitoring for regional airports. So, Eurocontrol said it conducted some tests to do so.
“We decided that Alicante Airport in Spain would be the place to explore the feasibility of this approach,” Eurocontrol said. “We wanted to know whether the aircraft monitoring process could be automated in an attempt to significantly reduce the ground handlers’ workload.”
Feasibility testing took place over one week, Eurocontrol said. Along with ArianeGroup, Eurocontrol conducted the “shadow-mode” exercise with the participation of the airport operator, air navigation service provider FerroNATS and the entire ground handling community (Ryanair, EasyJet, Jet2, Iberia, Norwegian, Groundforce and swissport). Feedback on the Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) concept was positive.
One of the main parameters in A-CDM is the target off block time. To ensure an accurate target off block time, Eurocontrol said it is necessary to monitor the key events associated with a given flight. This monitoring and management is called the “milestones approach” of A-CDM.
Eurocontrol said that one issue that has been raised in the past relating to the milestones approach is the necessity for the airlines/handlers to monitor up to 16 milestones for each flight in order to be able to provide reliable target off block time estimates.
During testing, Eurocontrol said, the platform was connected to Network Manager via a B2B connection for the reception of flight update messages and was configured to determine (and record for analysis purposes) the full set of departure planning information messages based on automatically generated target off block time estimates from the flight events and the boarding process. The platform was also connected to the local Alicante Airport operations database in order to capture various “aircraft status” events, Eurocontrol said.
Eurocontrol said a separate position in the air traffic control tower allowed controllers to monitor the “departure sequence” as derived from the target off block time estimates. According to Eurocontrol, this display was “highly valued by the controllers who would like to see it deployed into the current operational system.”
This work was part of the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management (ATM) Research (SESAR) 2020 Program.