Airport Collaborative Decision Making

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 Implementation at Brussels Airport: Introducing the Partners Involved, Kri

Past the theory, into practice: Brussels Airport

In the last 2 episodes, we discovered the 6 concept elements of Airport Collaborative Decision Making as defined by Eurocontrol, that form the European A-CDM implementation trajectory. Let’s now take a closer look at how an airport actually went about implementing those 6 corner stones. But first things first; let me introduce you to our A-CDM partners.

Brussels Airport (BRU/EBBR): Overview of A-CDM Stakeholders

Located at the heart of the European Union, and having welcomed 19,3 million passengers in 2013 , Brussels Airport ranks as a an Airports Council International ‘Group 2’ airport. We sport 2 parallel runways, 25/07 oriented to take full advantage of the prevailing westerly winds, and an intersecting one, 01/19, mainly used to spread the arrival and departure patterns and live up to the strict noise abatement procedures in place. Melsbroek (EBMB) is the military air base housing the Belgian Air Force’s 15th Airlift Wing and is located 'next door'; to be taken literally, because their traffic uses ‘our’ runway and taxiway infrastructure and enters the EBBR departure sequence. Historically, the management of the airport was taken up by a set of public companies. Nowadays, the Belgian state retains a minority share of 25%, + 1 share in Brussels Airport Company.

BRU is an IATA level 3 coordinated airport, meaning that an airport slot is required to operate in and out of it. Our colleagues of Belgium Slot Coordination, a full EUACA member, are taking care of this.

Since this is about A-CDM, let’s set terminal ops aside and focus on airside operations. Those are covered by 4 ground handlers, one of which is dealing exclusively with business aviation and governmental flights. We get a fair amount of those, thanks to European decision makers’ and multinational HQ-s at a stone’s throw away from the airport.Except for the business aviation handler, all others cover their own de-icing operations independently and only a modest level of steering from the airport is involved here.

Our Air Navigation Service Provider is called Belgocontrol. What is now an autonomous public enterprise, used to form one and the same public entity with the airport operator. This means that ICT wise, Brussels Airport Company and Belgocontrol have a shared history when it comes to creating situational awareness on the airport, and this has proven its benefits, as you will read later on.

A-CDM Brussels Airport

Last but not least, our home carriers Brussels Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium, TUI fly (formerly Jetairfly.com), and DHL Aviation to some extent. While Brussels Airlines and charter flight operator Thomas Cook were actively involved as from A-CDM start-up, Jetairfly and DHL took up a more active role in the last couple of years. The bulk of the visiting carriers are represented by the Airline Operators Committee,that sits in on most A-CDM meetings.

In May 2008, all of the above stakeholders but Jetairfly and DHL Aviation signed the Memorandum of Understanding, and officially kicked off Brussels Airport's Airport Collaborative Decision Making project. 2 years later, on June 29th 2010, we delivered common situational awareness on the A-CDM milestones (see post 2) for the airport community, and a stable departure planning information  link (see post 3) with Eurocontrol's Network Manager (formerly known as CFMU), thus becoming Europe's 2nd A-CDM airport.

Now that you know the players, let's have a look at the 'game' in the next 2 episodes. No dirty tricks played on the  way to implementation, but the ride was exciting nonetheless...

Update on 21 Dec 2017: Jetairfly.com is now part of TUI fly

Additional Resources: www.euro-cdm.org

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