European Airport Collaborative Decision Making

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, 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: is now part of TUI fly

Additional Resources:

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.