Airport CDM

A-CDM Affairs: Avoiding Loss of Attention Span 2

A-CDM Affairs This is part 2 of my non-exhaustive debrief of Eurocontrol's A-CDM workshop, held in September 2015. In part 1, A-CDM Affairs: Avoiding Loss of Attention Span 1, among other things: patience getting rewarded ultimately, the green dots on the implementation status chart, the introduction of A-CDM in the ICAO world, and the long awaited benefits study.

Nordic Harmonization

Eurocontrol dedicated a large part of their September event to Airport CDM experiences on The Old Continent and, yes, across the globe, which I highly acclaim. There were airport operators, air navigation service providers, airlines and the FAA.... Surely, there must have been a sound reason why there was no ground handlers in the room to present their take on A-CDM.oslo airport logo

Anyway, on to Gro Jaere from Oslo Gardermoen Airport, who explained to us how A-CDM, and the inherent culture change from ‘first come, first served’ to ‘best planned, best served’, got implemented at her airport, under the auspices of Avinor. Interesting to see that the Norwegians are considering the installation of a ‘Nordic A-CDM Forum’, by analogy with the ‘A-CDM Germany’ initiative. Although challenging, as I explained in the first paragraphs of part 1 of this 2-part post, it shows the ‘organic’ drive to harmonize procedures, share best practices and technology to smooth out the path for future implementation. And it becomes really interesting when the ‘Nordic A-CDM Forum’ would evolve into something cross-border, involving the Swedish, Finnish and Danish (‘to-be’) A-CDM airports.

 

Cockpit Experience

'The cockpit is the weakest link in Collaborative Decision Making’ was once a lofty phrase uttered on a regular basis by BRU’s first A-CDM project manager, especially back in those days when flight deck crews were kind of… persistent in misunderstanding what the concept and its fairly basic cockpit procedures were all about.

But time, progressive insight and A-CDM advocates like Francisco Hoyas, Senior First Officer at Iberia, made our lives a lot easier on that point. Fran’s approach was to project a flight crew’s transit through an airport on the A-CDM Milestones. It was a great way to see how those two processes line up with each other, and how increased operational predictability, that comes with timely sharing Milestone data, makes for optimized -and safe- turnarounds. Francisco highlighted that airport-specific interpretations of standard A-CDM operating procedures should get to the cockpit more easily, and I couldn't agree more. Only, the question is: what is the most efficient way to do this? Options are limited here for an airport operator, and ever since project implementation in BRU 5 years ago, the number of airlines that got in touch with us to learn the local 'tweaks' and include them in their station briefing sheet is limited to... one.

In his presentation, Francisco also asks us to consider the cockpit crew 'as an airframe', but I think we're entitled to some further clarification on a next occasion ;-)

A-CDM and the Cockpit

Middle East A-CDM Implementation

Although capacity strains at Dubai Airport create a perfect proof-of-concept environment for operational optimization initiatives, it must not be a gift to implement mid term projects in this vast, almost exponentially expanding place, as Velis Eleftheriou, Dubai's A-CDM Implementation Manager, admits over drinks at the network reception. One would expect sophistication and a heaps of bells and whistles to support their decision making, but, as Velis explained in his presentation, DXB manages well with a 100% in-house developed, straightforward common SA tool, which even sports a 'sandbox environment' (no pun intended) where the impact of capacity shortfalls can be assessed, in order to pick the most appropriate recovery scenario. Velis once stood at the drawing board of the Airport CDM concept and knows all too well that procedures prevail against systems; information overload only clutters the view on why we are doing all those efforts for.

Noteworthy: Dubai is now focusing on the pre-departure sequencing algorithm, soon followed by the generation of 'DPI-style' messages, which could eventually be shared with the Network Manager, like regular European A-CDM airports do.

Dubai's first airport, 1971

Dubai's first airport, 1971 (Image: Yahoo Finance Canada) 

Meanwhile Down Under: Faster, Higher, Stronger

Flying halfway across the globe to meet the people who stood at the cradle of Airport CDM, getting acquainted with our perhaps old-skool approach of multi-partner airport projects and presenting the way A-CDM things are taken care of in New-Zealand; Mark Croudace, Passenger & Terminal Operations Manager at Auckland Airport, surely was a man on a mission. Moreover, I had the honour to host Mark at Brussels Airport the day before the event and explain to him all about the early days, and exchange thoughts on how A-CDM can cater for the operational issues at his 'peaky airport'. Auckland Airport logo

Auckland Airport embarked on a 2-year implementation journey, using the Eurocontrol Implementation Manual guidelines as a project template and simultaneously deploying an end-to-end solution, which comes with a transparent and remarkably graphical interface to share airside and landside Milestones amongst the operational partners. A remarkable feat, which makes AKL number one in the southern hemisphere to implement A-CDM. But hey, no worries: listening to Mark explaining, all this was associated with less fuss and not so much of the 'Yes, but' syndrome with which we have to deal in Europe, time and again.

But judge for yourself. Witnessing the enthusiasm of the people that feature in the below video -there's even a ground handler in it!- and that distinct 'let's do this' feel throughout the footage, New Zealand looks like the land of milk and (manuka) honey for making concepts like Airport CDM happen.

https://vimeo.com/136065413

Will U.S. Align?

Bob Varcadipane from the Airport Surface Efficiency Group (FAA) presented us a rather high-level overview of the FAA's interpretation of Collaborative Decision Making, which appears to be 'sharing data to create a common view of the air traffic management system from which to base decisions', giving the impression that the concept remains ATC centric at this stage.

 

Agreed. What's happening on the ground at U.S airports on the stakeholder collaboration subject gets described as Surface CDM (S-CDM), but the focus lies almost exclusively on surface metering, whereby a “virtual departure queue” is created in which departures are “metered” by holding flights either at the gate or in a common metering area. Pretty much like a DMAN  generated pre-departure sequence, but the scope of Airport-CDM goes way beyond, and at no point the comprehensive Milestone approach and its key predictability enablers TOBT and TSAT transpire in the operational concept of S-CDM. It could take some time before we will talk the same talk here...

And a Few More Things..

We all know that after a certain time, we tend to only remember the good things and forget about the bad. Yet, coming to think of it, there was much more interesting stuff going on during those 2 days at Eurocontrol that deserve to be mentioned. The focus on procedures and communication in the A-CDM project of Singapore Changi Airport for instance, and, in the absence of an air traffic management network dimension, their aim to exchange the key milestones in densely-operated city pairs via a 'multi-nodal' network. Or ACI's briefing session, pinpointing opportunities for mid-size airports to file for EC grants out of the Cohesion Fund, and the Airport CDM concept as a prerequisite for impending performance-based airport operations (I again invite you to consult all presentations here).

A-CDM update

Conclusion?

I'm absolutely the last person to pretend to be all-knowing on the subject, so I must say I had some expectations beforehand. To learn a couple of operational procedure tweaks in this dynamic environment for instance, or to uncover new insights, or an unthought-of approach on the smouldering issue of procedure harmonization, for instance; still one of the 'elephants in the room' of our community.

The A-CDM Information Exchange was unmistakably a superb networking event. Yet, regardless of the fact how inspiring the speakers were, the scope of many presentations did not go beyond highlighting the viability of an operational optimization concept of which both local and network benefits have been obvious for quite some time. We are way past the proof-of-concept phase now, and this approach involuntarily keeps the forum open for outmoded and unfair criticism, as it was again transpiring in the IATA presentation.

So, let's not lose the span of attention on A-CDM. Full steam ahead now, and let's 'get stuff done' in the interest of both those struggling to get on board ánd early adopters on a next occasion, for which I'm sure we'll not have to be patient for another 2 years.

I want to conclude on a genuinely positive note, with part of Current Operations Manager Slavi Stoyanov's inspiring, off-key presentation on NMOC's expectations of the Airport CDM program, in which he got support from Andrew Baulcomb to visualise how to evacuate at least one elephant out of the Collaborative Decision Making room...

A-CDM funnies

Andy Baulcomb is Senior Network Coordinator in the Network Manager Ops Room, but appears to be a fine graphics artist as well, 'targeting a poor unsuspecting individual from time to time'. (Moreover, he finds himself answering requests for caricature cartoons from colleagues, so I wouldn't hesitate any longer).

As said, I only covered part of the deal here, so, for those who were it the same room,  I'm looking forward to your comments on what I definitely forgot to write about. To those who were unfortunate enough to miss the event: which hot A-CDM potatoes would you like to see addressed on a next occasion?

Related Resources Collaborative Decision Making presentation, Air Traffic Flow Managment and Surface CDM, Peru, August 2015

Images are by Vitor Azevedo unless otherwise mentioned


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A-CDM Affairs: Avoiding Loss of Attention Span 1

Airport Collaborative Decision Making

Good Things* Come to Those Who Wait

Thanks for checking in on the continuation of my Airport Collaborative Decision Making series on New Airport Insider. Due to business opportunities in the rapidly expanding A-CDM world, I admit I've been rather quiet on this subject… But good to be back, and present you with my take on the most recent state of play on A-CDM, as presented at Eurocontrol on September 22nd-23, 2015. This is part 1 of 2, with part 2 to be published in 2 weeks.

Wait, let’s rule out a potential misunderstanding here; I’m not pretending that you would be patiently waiting for a next post on A-CDM, but I was only alluding on the fact that I was forced to go way back into time to check when the last time was that the A-CDM airport community had the chance to team up to discuss and (dis-)agree on what’s close to our hearts.

Looking Back, We've Come a Long Way…

I do remember the last Procedures Group meeting, hosted by Brussels Airport and wrapped up with a sky high dinner in the top sphere of one of the most remarkable buildings in the European capital. That was 2010… back at the time that Brussels and Munich were the only airports that could declare themselves A-CDM, but admired by an eager bunch of fellow airports looking to implement this exciting new airport efficiency project soon, very soon…

ACDM implementation status 2010

A-CDM implementation status in Q4, 2010 (source: Brussels Airport information session presentation)

Next came a series of 5 meetings in the Harmonization Task Force sequence at Eurocontrol. Back in 2012 and 2013 that was, when 5 years after Munich and 3 after Brussels, still only 8 of us were A-CDM certified. Many questions could be asked as to why, but non-harmonized procedures were considered as the main culprit. Although no less than 19 issues were mitigated (after some fierce debating), resulting in as much recommendations for the Implementation Manual, the A-CDM community realized that procedure harmonization ends where the objectives of airports to implement A-CDM start to fork. The Eurocontrol task force was wrapped up and left quite a few of us with an uneasy feeling about the future of A-CDM. Nevertheless, new airports maintained their focus and kept coming ‘on line’ in the next months, and even the pace picked up. Time to convince Eurocontrol to call us all back together.

Where Are the Ground Handlers? Part…

It took a few gentle reminders, but as it is said, patience is the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting. That’s probably why there were about 130 A-CDM aficionados collecting their badge for the Europa conference room late September 2015, almost exactly 2 years after the harmonization disputes died away. Once again, apart from the local BRU branch of Aviapartner, the ground handlers were blaringly absent at this event. It’s even become kind of cynical, when time and time again the -underestimated- role of this group of stakeholders gets highlighted, but the ones failing to understand this appear to be the ground handlers themselves…

Anyway, Eurocontrol Deputy Head of Airports Matthis Birenheide kicked of the two-day event by stating that one of the event’s objectives was ‘to identify future A-CDM developments’, besides reporting on today’s situation. Since I’m the first to admit that I’m most certainly not all-knowing on the subject, I had some expectations here.

The audience was up for about 15 presentations, but don’t expect me to comment all of them; I’m poor at taking notes during presentations, so what follows is what I found worth keeping track of mentally, and still appear to be doing after all those weeks. Not to worry, you’ll find every single slide here, and I’m providing links to the relevant presentations as I proceed.


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18, and Counting

5 years later. Let’s retake the project implementation status map of Europe, out of the presentation of Dave Booth, Eurocontrol’s A-CDM Implementation Manager. Happy to announce that the Barcelona-El Prat blue dot has turned green since October 20th 2015, which makes us 18 today. And quite a few emerging projects as you can see, but also, some out there haven’t ‘changed colour’ much in those 5 years, and are struggling or even stuck in their attempts to implement. Reasons may vary, but they are a cause for concern and the main reason for avoiding fragmentation of the attention span here, folks…

A-CDM implementation status in Q3, 2015

A-CDM implementation status in Q3, 2015 (source: Eurocontrol Airport Unit presentation)

Plotting A-CDM on ICAO Charts

Something to not let go out of sight in Dave’s presentation are Eurocontrol’s ongoing efforts to anchor Airport CDM in ICAO literature. Most probably, the concept will be logged as part III of ICAO’s Manual on Collaborative Air Traffic Flow Management (Doc 9971 for those of you with a keen interest), and aims to provide project implementation guidance material, partly extracted out of the Eurocontrol's Implementation Manual, to ensure a harmonized approach on the use of e.g. terminology and procedures along which airport data is shared and used in the decision making process. As a measure to lower the acceptance threshold for an airport-centric concept in the world of ICAO, where air traffic capacity and efficiency is predominantly considered out of an ATFCM point of view, the value of this document-to-be can never be underestimated.

Airport CDM and Its Proven Benefits

For the onset (2010), it was made clear that the combined benefits resulting out of at least 16 local A-CDM implementations would transpire in network performance. Given the current implementation status, time for Eurocontrol to invest in a network impact study on quantitative and qualitative benefits, involving all up-and-running A-CDM airports. I put my non-ATC background to blame, so Simon Pickup from Atlas Chase, who supported Eurocontrol for this study, kind of lost me when discussing ‘sector over-delivery probability by DPI Flight saturation’, I’m afraid. But the graphs testify to what A-CDM has contributed to overall efficiency of airport operations… Have a look for yourself and discover the selected preliminary aggregate results here.

Having been involved in the exercise for Brussels Airport, the initiative has also proven to be an eye-opener on data-driven performance reporting and provided valuable input for in-house reporting and visualization of our result sets (if I manage to figure out those Mann-Kendall probability analysis outputs, that is…).

The study will be concluded in the first quarter of 2016, but it is assumed that it will most probably not reflect the full extent of the benefits as projected in 2010 by having 16 airports online. Not because some of us A-CDM airports refused to contribute, but due to the fact that it was expected that some larger airports, such as Amsterdam Schiphol airport, Wien Schwechat airport and Istanbul Ataturk airport would have connected to the network by now, by the virtue of their traffic volume. According to Eurocontrol/Atlas Chase, given what’s still in the pipeline, we are looking at a volume of 20 to 23 A-CDM airports to correctly benchmark the results against the initial targets.

A-CDM benefit mechanism

The A-CDM benefit mechanism (source: Eurocontrol Benefit & Network Impact study presentation)

Next time in part 2, among others, a rather unconventional view on stakeholder collaboration from the Eurocontrol Network Manager (video), Auckland Airport's refreshing take on A-CDM, all in one great video, the FAA's rather not so aligned approach, and much more.

So please stay tuned, but here's a nice tip to keep you from hitting the refresh button: sign up for New Airport Insider, and part 2 gets automatically delivered in your inbox as soon as it is published. In the meantime, I invite you to leave your comment.

*Things that are out of your hands, that is. Otherwise there’s little use in waiting..

Header image: Vitor Azevedo

A-CDM in Europe: Is the Ball Rolling?

A-CDMIn the course of one month, the ECAC zone could add 3 more Airport Collaborative Decision Making airports to its list of 12 in 2014. Latest to join was London Gatwick Airport on November 7th, and early October we welcomed Milano Malpensa Airport as Italy's second, and Stuttgart Airport as Germany's 5th addition already. Benefiting from lessons learned and thanks to German A-CDM procedure harmonization, Stuttgart pulled its project off in just over one year. It looks like we are eventually picking up the required implementation pace. Can we do better? Definitely; many airports do have an A-CDM project in the pipeline, and many others should have, by now..

Airport CDM

From the Benches to the Trenches

All too many skeptics have been pointing fingers to Eurocontrol for this unconvincing implementation rate, but let's be realistic here: one cannot expect the organisation to steer 10 or 15 projects simultaneously and guide every individual airport through the concept elements, preventing them from sitting back and relaxing until the next discussion round.

But more and more fingers are pointing in the direction of trade organisations and industry bodies like IATA, CANSO, ACI, ... who excel in circumlocutory statements and press releases on collaborative decision making, but still haven't rolled up their sleeves and stepped into the field to actually listen to the concerns of A-CDM stakeholders. Well, at least I have been around for 4 years in the Brussels Airport A-CDM program, and yes, as an A-CDM advocate, I have expressed the concerns of the community on quite a few public speaking occasions, but I don't remember any of the aforementioned bodies stepping in or offering advice afterwards.

I'm asking myself if they are aware of their mitigating role in ongoing discussions and misunderstandings about the very core of the collaboration concept of A-CDM that are still haunting us after all those years

Airport CDM

Change Ahead?

To my pleasant surprise, a pertinent question was asked by someone from IATA in the 'A-CDM at airports' group on LinkedIn: "What can Eurocontrol, IATA, ACI, ... do better to optimize implementation and delivery of benefits?". So, it ís realised that there are 'some issues' with having the A-CDM concept adopted by the aviation industry... and I consider this to be a modest breakthrough. So I engaged with a counter question: 'the one who only does what he has been doing will only get what he has always gotten, so what about some thinking outside the box and reaching out to the practitioners out there?'

My question was left unanswered, but for starters, I was happy to be able to take the conversation off line and elaborate on the chasm between boardroom A-CDM and the actual thing; issues which I will not withhold you, but which deserve a separate -and upcoming- blog post.

A-CDM

and Change Ahead?

Some weeks ago, I was invited by DLR to assist in a debate at the Airport IT 2014 conference on the importance of joint airport stakeholder decision making in future concepts such as Total Airport Management, for which A-CDM is a prerequisite (so this was me, arguing that A-CDM is approached too system-centric, in front of a fine selection of airport IT providers...).

Lots of buzz on 'collaboration' during the coffee breaks, and the word -again to my pleasant surprise- trickled down into many a slick airport tech-and-tool presentation. Yes, the success of an A-CDM project is measured by the transparency of its cross-stakeholder procedures rather than the performance of its tools.

Now, let us step up in the pursuit of the customer intimacy factor in project implementation and reach out to the practitioners to not only provide a system and bail out, but to make it actually happen and install a culture of sustained stakeholder engagement on those A-CDM airports to-be

... because an ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory.

What's your take on this issue? Besides a healthy dose of experience, what more is needed to gain momentum for A-CDM implementation? And how do we approach the powerhouses of the industry to get them rolling up their sleeves.

Look out for upcoming posts on A-CDM implementation and challenges. Meanwhile, I invite you to enjoy the extraordinary pictures from Vitor Azevedo. Vitor is on the push back team of Swissport at Brussels Airport, but might as well be a professional photographer. Have a look at www.brusselstarmac.be

A-CDM Concept Elements: Getting Linked In With ATC

Airport CDM

This is part 3 of a 6-part series on European Airport Collaborative Decision Making, in which we explore 2 out of 6 concept elements that constitute the implementation of an A-CDM project. In part 2, we looked at the data sharing efforts to be undertaken, the ‘milestone approach’ and the collaborative pre-departure sequence.

In this episode, we’ll continue exploring the European collaborative decision making implementation details, leading to A-CDM implementation. Last time, we ended with the variable taxi time element as one of the elements that constitute the collaborative pre-departure sequence. Next in line is perhaps the most challenging step of them all… 

Adverse Conditions Management

Airport Collaborative Decision Making Photo: AP / Virginia Mayo

Although ‘adverse conditions’ cover all possible events that may put a strain on regular airport operations, be it a baggage belt breakdown, a raging thunderstorm overhead or an industrial action, focus tends to be on managing the aircraft, stand, taxi- and runway de-icing or de-snowing process. Frankly, heavy winter conditions rapidly turn Western and Southern European airports in chaotic resorts, and the least we want to do is to insert some organisation in that chaos.

Recently, Eurocontrol published the de-icing milestones -I’ll spare you the set of acronyms that came with it- which allow an airport and its de-icing agents to keep track of the progress of the operations, to try to put some predictability in the whole set-up. Set-ups which vary to a very large extent between airports, ranging from centralized, airport-steered de-icing pads close to the runway holding points (ideal!) to combinations of spread on-stand/remote de-icing by 2 or more independently operating de-icing agents (auch!).

In either way, it’s up to the airport to get its act together during adverse circumstances and  be persistent in running its operations in a collaborative way with its stakeholders and keeping the community in the loop. You would be surprised how quick people forget they’re working on an A-CDM airport when the going gets tough…

Almost There: E-DPI, T-DPI-t, T-DPI-s, A-DPI, C-DPI…

Remember the target off-blocks time (TOBT)/target start-up approval time (TSAT) concept, which enables the airport to collaboratively build an aircraft start-up order through data shared by its stakeholders; the time has come to kick functionality in to life that uploads this data into Eurocontrol’s Enhanced Tactical Flow Management System (ETFMS, here we go again…). We do this via a set of structured messages called DPI’s: departure planning information messages. Depending on the course of events during a flight’s turn-around at the airport and/or the time left to departure, a different kind of DPI is transmitted by local Air Traffic Control at the airport. Data elements in the DPI’s vary slightly from type to type, but it is the aim to provide a quality Target Take-Off Time (TTOT), which is getting more correct when the actual departure time approaches.

A-CDM

Photo: FUM/DPI exchange (courtesy of Eurocontrol)

ETFMS likes our DPI’s, and gives us something in return: the flight update messages (FUM), providing a continuous flow of operational data on inbound flights, for intra-Europe flights even if the aircraft is still sitting on the ramp at the airport of origin.  Airport operators are particularly interested in the Estimated Landing Times (ELDT) out of those FUM’s, because they form the basis for a good first departure estimation.

Once DPI transmission is established, call yourself an A-CDM airport. You successfully managed to deploy an up-and-running data sharing platform and provided access for the whole airport community. You have a D-MAN in place to master your pre-departure sequence. You’ve built trust among your airport partners and they accept 3rd party data in order to fine tune their operations and the estimation of the core target times. You have transparent procedures in place to tackle predicted and unforeseen capacity drops, and you channel all of the above in DPI. Congratulations, and I’m not being sarcastic this time.

In the next episode, we’ll take a closer look at the road map of an actual implementation, and how Brussels Airport managed to roll out full A-CDM as Europe’s second.

This article is part 3 in a series of 6 on European Airport Collaborative Decision Making.

Additional Resources www.euro-cdm.org

photo credit: APilotsEye

Is A-CDM Misunderstood?

A-CDM Misunderstood?

Off-The-Shelf and Out-Of-The-Box

Having been involved in European Airport Collaborative Decision Making for about 10 years, and experiencing it in live operations on a daily basis, makes me curious on what's available on the subject on the Internet.

For starters, there's an active LinkedIn group on Airport CDM that recently attracted its 1000th member. Lots of thoughts and questions on that forum, ranging from high-level opinions, to discussions on specific technical or operational topics. Besides that, you'll mainly find A-CDM coverage on one-pagers and in web news corners of official bodies like ACI, Eurocontrol and CANSO, and in the airport technology section of the websites of change management consultants and various industry partners. Some even feature in magazines, or (guest) blog on technical data sharing tool achievements, shiny interfaces with catchy acronyms and, subsequently, their happy customers. Boys, and our toys.

I'm trying to avoid sounding like a lecturer here, but please keep in mind that the majority of the technical solutions to be deployed are but the first step out of six on your way to become an A-CDM airport, as described in my previous post.

Traditional A-CDM

Recently, I came across a couple of articles that were published shortly after each other, and that reconfirmed a system centric view on A-CDM. One was a joint ACI Eurocontrol press release in which A-CDM is unfortunately described as 'a tool that allows for real time sharing of operational data', the other was Lockheed Martin's Chief Aviation Technologist Alaistair Deacon views on the future of A-CDM.

Make no mistake, Alaistair is spot on when questioning airport operator buy-in, and stating that the passenger, and his journey through the airport more specifically, is somewhat neglected in 'traditional A-CDM'. But shouldn't we owe it to ourselves to first investigate the root cause of the fact that A-CDM is 'poorly defined' (to certain extent) 'and implemented' (correct), instead of  going full steam ahead with big data set-ups, and the dazzling opportunities that may come along with it? Otherwise, chances are that we end up with an equally poorly understood passenger-centric A-CDM successor.

Besides, there's a -most probably unvoluntary-  ironic ring to traditional A-CDM, knowing that since Munich Airport premiered in 2008, it was followed by only 7 more European airports out of the 100 that see 3,4 million passengers per year - more on this in later posts.

The main reason, in my humble opinion, is: Airport Collaborative Decision Making is a way of life, not a stand-alone system. It's also about commonly agreed rules you feed that tool at the business end to facilitate the silent coordination process, and above all about the procedures to interpret the data that will allow you to start making collaborative decisions.

It's about an airline flight dispatcher agreeing on a target off-blocks time  in collaboration with their handling agent. It's about a de-icing operator assessing the time to start de-icing after a loading team debrief. It's about a ramp services coordinator monitoring the target start-up approval time to dispatch their push back teams. And eventually, it will be about border control officials and passenger screening agents collaborating to guarantee a smooth transit during morning rush hour. Ultimately, the best toys focus on what a child can do with it, rather than what the toys can do.

Airport operations are volatile and unpredictable by algorithms. What do you think? Is the future of Airport Collaborative Decision Making jeopardized by lack of insight in operational processes and a mere focus on technology?

Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

Photo credit: APilotsEye

Note from the Editor: This is our last article for 2013 as we break for the holidays. Our next post will be on the 8th of January 2014. All of us at New Airport Insider wish you and your family a healthy and prosperous 2014 and thank you for being part of this community.

Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) Concept Elements: Setting Milestones

Airport Collaborative Decision Making

The Concept Elements of European Airport CDM

This is part 2 of a 6-part series on European Airport Collaborative Decision Making, in which we explore the first 4 out of 6 concept elements that constitute the implementation of an A-CDM project. Part 1 provided an introduction to the history and the scope of collaborative decision making initiatives on the Old Continent.

In this episode, we’ll take a closer look at the project implementation steps every European airport that takes itself and Collaborative Decision Making seriously, implements according to the Eurocontrol A-CDM Implementation Manual , before being declared as an A-CDM airport. I’m deliberately using the word ‘declared’ here, as there is no real certification process involved; sharing airport data by means of departure planning information messages suffices for Eurocontrol to have your airport designator code added to the slowly expanding list of A-CDM practitioners.

Walk in the Park?

Now, one may be tempted to believe that this feat is easily achieved within a couple of months. And indeed, technically speaking, setting up the DPI communications link after agreeing on a data exchange protocol may well lie within this range,  but for your data to be of added value for the Network Manager and his Enhanced Tactical Flow Management System , one better comes to terms with the defined 6 concept elements…

Airport CDM

First Things First: MoU

But before getting started, better to have all noses pointing in the same direction: you start off by signing a Memorandum of Understanding in which every contributing stakeholder commits himself to not only talk the talk, but above all to walk the walk with regards to development and training efforts, costs and agreed timelines. Some prefer to sign this document in the close confines of the boardroom, but others, like Stockholm Arlanda airport, where a Brussels Airport delegation was invited for a brief ‘lessons learnt’ showcase, arrange a charming little ceremony for the airport community to spread the word of exciting times ahead.

Information Sharing: ACISP

I’ve done a lot of reading on A-CDM on the internet the past couple of years, and my impression is that many out there believe that the installment of an A-CDM Communication & Information System Platform (ACISP) is the last step on the way to collaborative decision making.  I have to disappoint those who think it’s the last step; it’s the first, rather. Moreover, the investment aspect not taking into consideration, it may have proven to be the easiest hurdle on the way to implementation for many airports when looking back.

Several options for the airport here: you build extra functionality into legacy systems that already managed to exchange operational data, or plug in a tool or protocol to have legacy systems “talk” to each other, or buy one of the solutions offered by the industry. And believe me, there are MANY providers out there eagerly looking out for opportunities to show off impressive software solutions that will cater to your needs.

So, after perhaps a long and tiresome selection round, you, or rather your software provider, will announce to the world that System X or Suite Y has been successfully deployed at your airport. Wonderful. One more detail, though: let’s now put every stakeholder in charge to fill this data base, and let them share their data with the airport community so that it can be duly interpreted for operational purposes at the airport, and beyond.

I hope you forgive my sarcasm here…

The Milestone Approach + VTT = Collaborative Pre-Departure Sequence

The aim of A-CDM: Raise common situational awareness in order to enhance predictability in airport operations. Keeping track of inbound flights and the progress of the turn-around process once docked at the gate. For that purpose, Eurocontrol prescribes the deployment of 16 milestones, covering a substantial part of a flight’s trajectory  (one of aviation’s latest buzz words) into an airport and back out of it. Time stamps are to be made available by the stakeholders who have confirmed to be the respective source of the data reporting over each milestone.

A-CDM

Key milestones are:

  • Target off-blocks time (known to you as TOBT, as from now on), which advises the airport community on the departure readiness of an aircraft. It can originate from various sources, depending on the stage of the turn-around process and can range from a calculated airport operator value based on estimated arrival and minimum turn-around time (MTT), or manually updated by the airline (AO) or the handling agent (GH) to reflect the operational situation.
  • Target start-up approval time (TSAT), ‘in reply’ to TOBT, which of course considers the TOBT, takes Air Traffic Flow & Capacity Management (ATFCM) restrictions into account and establishes the airport’s pre-departure sequence . TSAT management  is mostly an exclusivity of the Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP).

If not already the case, by the end of this episode you’ve figured out that we Europeans are in love with acronyms…

This is the core of the A-CDM process. Well mastered, played by the book, strictly adhering to procedures, it’s a transparent and waterproof procedure that allows ATFCM to optimize air traffic capacity, by taking ground movements and turn-around constraints into account.

However, pre-departure sequencing requires another data element to be put in place beforehand: the variable taxi time (VTT). This time interval sort of bridges the ‘gap’ between whatever is happening at the aircraft stand and what is bound to happen in the air (and vice versa), and is produced by a tool called the D-MAN, to make sure that the throughput at the runway runs optimal. For that purpose, the D-MAN looks at fleet mix, instrument departure procedures, runway configuration, aircraft taxi patterns… Meaning: reduced taxi times up to and reduced queuing at the runway holding point. Also meaning: trying to keep an aircraft as long as possible at the gate, but I’ll come back later on this issue

VTT’s are also calculated for inbound taxi rolls in pretty much the same way, thus highly ameliorating the quality of the estimated in-blocks time.

Up to the fourth concept element, and in comes the tricky part… but all about this in the next episode. Do you have questions or comments? Leave them below.

This article is part 2 in a series of 6 on European Airport Collaborative Decision Making.

Additional Resources  European Airport CDM  Photo credit: Y. Ferriere

Airport Collaborative Decision Making in Europe

A Guide to Why Sharing Airport Data Makes Sense

Splendid Isolation

Imagine yourself sitting at the gate, waiting to embark your flight. You’re early, and you see the aircraft arriving at the stand. It barely came to halt when different rolling stock and teams aim for  the aircraft doors, almost in perfect unison.  Almost, because those different vehicles and teams often belong to different aircraft handling companies  and most of the time, airport players operate in ‘perfect isolation’, not necessarily taking the needs or restraints of the other into consideration.

Let’s zoom out a bit: turnaround activities of your flight have finished, but caught a delay earlier on due to a baggage conveyor of ground handler A with a flat tire, which blocked the catering truck of ground handler B. The departure time is restricted by Eurocontrol’s Network Manager due to air traffic congestion, but the aircraft won’t make the allocated ‘slot’.  The airline was advised of this delay by handler A, but cannot make a correct estimation of the problem and counts on local Air Traffic Control instances to still be able to clear the aircraft for pushback. Only, the tower controller doesn't know of any delay from handler A or B, and has no means to advise the Network Manager (formerly known as CFMU) that your aircraft will not be airborne as planned…

Enjoy this vintage strip from the World famous Belgian comic strip book series “Suske en Wiske” (translated in English nowadays as “Spike & Suzy); standard airport operations caught in one image…

“No member of a crew is praised for the rugged individuality of its rowing”  R.W. Emerson

Apart from frustrated handling teams, a stressed out airline which is faced with an unforeseen delay which it could not anticipate, and you, nail biting in your seat and wondering why it’s always taking so long at this bloody airport, your aircraft blocks air space capacity at the time it was expected to be airborne, and puts a strain on air traffic flow and capacity management.

By the turn of the century, air traffic growth predictions skyrocketed, and both air traffic service providers and airports saw themselves faced with future capacity issues. Add to this the fact that in the early 1990s, about one fifth of all airborne take-off slots in Europe went to waste, partly as a result of -involuntary- cases of ‘rugged individuality’ by airport stakeholders. Jokingly, air traffic control considered  airports to be black holes, in which aircraft disappeared after landing, without ever knowing when they would emerge again.

Time to start acting…

Square One

Already in the late 1990s, European decision makers started looking at an American decision making initiative called CDM, later renamed as Surface CDM, which was first rolled out at San Francisco International Airport in 1998.

The concept was mainly focused on en route capacity restrictions and bad weather situations, less on turn-around operations. Nevertheless, the concept of making collaborative decisions to enhance operational predictability was withheld in the ATM Strategy 2000+, in which future European air transport needs were outlined. It was then further elaborated by Eurocontrol and developed into what we now call A-CDM, or Airport Collaborative Decision Making.

'The Network Dimension'

We’ve come a long way, and meanwhile, A-CDM characteristics were written down in Community Specifications by European standardization bureau ETSI, as mandated by the European Commission. The content is based on 3 EUROCAE (European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment) documents, which list the minimum technical  specifications, interface specifications and validation guidelines to make your airport A-CDM. In turn, this documentation, together with a detailed description of the operational concept, refers to the content of the A-CDM Functional Requirements Document  and, last but not least, the Implementation Manual; the ‘Holy Bible’ which you’ll find on the bedside table of all of us into A-CDM  (well, most of us…).

Requirements, guidelines, specifications, manuals… this must be Europe! And indeed, the ‘network dimension’ makes us different from other airport collaboration initiatives across the globe. Not only do we exchange data between the local stakeholders  at our airports -which is already challenging; we are also invited to share our decisions with the Network Manager, and this can easily be called both ambitious as well as underestimated.

How does one become European-style A-CDM?

It takes quite a bit for that… Next time, I’ll guide you through the 6 steps of the operational concept, from getting the Memorandum of Understanding signed by all your data sharing partners, up to linking your airport to the Air Traffic Flow Management Network.

This article is part 1 in a series of 6 articles on European Airport Collaborative Decision Making

Additional Resources Eurocontrol Airport CDM