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.
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.
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.
'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 ;-)
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 (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 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.
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).
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...
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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