Belgium

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

Incheon Airport South Korea Evaluates European A-CDM

Being an advocate of best practices to implement airport collaborative decision making implies agenda flexibility, and investing ample time to allow A-CDM candidates to grasp the concept of A-CDM as it is practiced in live operations. Be it after business hours for a small party of Romanian air traffic control, on their way back to Bucharest, or for the complete stakeholder group of Stockholm Arlanda airport on a one-day visit, or for a delegation of Single European Sky experts of the European Commission's Directorate General Move - Mobility & Transport. A couple of weeks ago, we had the honour to host a team of 5 from South Korea's Incheon International Airport, on a European A-CDM familiarization trip. ICN/RKSI, South Korea's main airport and among Asia's biggest 6, seems to be securing the 'World's best airport' award by Airports Council International year after year, and is now seriously considering efficiency and capacity optimizing measures by adopting the European airport stakeholder collaboration model. Project horizon is mid 2017, running along yet another dazzling construction project.

First Stop: Preparation

Since we have the habit of preparing thoroughly for each visit, we like to scan our visitors' level of A-CDM knowledge beforehand. That way, we avoid the risk of stating the obvious in the presentations, or 'losing' them at an early stage and giving the impression of talking double Dutch after a while.

We were forwarded an extensive presentation, which proved that the Eurocontrol concept elements and milestones had been surprisingly well studied. Unsurprisingly, the Incheon party was delegated by the ICT department of the airport operator and an ICT service provider, and aimed at understanding the 'A-CDM system' of Brussels Airport. After introductions, upon explaining to them that there is none, they were slightly taken aback, but nevertheless they engaged enthusiastically in a packed one-day A-CDM airport tour across 4 stakeholders.

So, talking double Dutch was never an issue, but understanding plain English was a bit tougher. Luckily, the Incheon party brought along an interpreter who really went out of his way to understand and translate almost simultaneously. He must have been exhausted by the end of the day...

Brussels Airport

Second Stop: In the Field

Brussels Airport isn't much in favor of explaining A-CDM in the classroom. It is understood at best when witnessing it enrolling in operations. So after an opening presentation on our interpretation of the A-CDM concept by ourselves, we don our safety jackets and go out.

We scheduled a concise presentation on departure planning information exchange between our ANSP and the Network Manager, presented by the Belgocontrol team, and try for a visit to the Delivery position in the tower for a brief exchange of thoughts on departure sequencing (which we usually manage in off-peak moments).

A-CDM

Next up is a visit to the A-CDM working positions of one of our home carriers and main ground handlers, each in turn explaining their approach on Collaborative Decision Making, the way procedures and data elements were integrated in their operations, and got adopted by all staff over time. The dreaded culture change...

In this way, we almost always achieve the goal we have in mind at the start of every familiarization visit: to let our visitors discover for themselves how A-CDM blends into day-to-day operations on an airport, and how the concept pops up in the procedures and technical solutions at each stakeholder. It's definitely worth the preparation and the required agenda space.

Lastly, Taking Up the challenge

The Incheon A-CDM team gave themselves 3 years to deliver a data sharing platform, which in my opinion shouldn't pose any major problems. However, there are some concerns about stakeholder commitment, and they left us with lots of things to consider on that subject, on data disclosure and responsibilities.

Although Incheon Airport  is known for sporting an 18-hole golf course, it may well be that putting Airport Collaborative Decision Making into business will turn out to be a different ball game...

What is your take on A-CDM at non-European airports? Unlike Europe, there is no option to interlink airport operations in a network manager controlled environment, thus lacking the 'netwoHence, does local capacity optimization justify substantial investments in collaborative decision making technology and culture change?

Editor's Note We will be on holiday in August and back with a new blog post in September. The New Airport Insider team thanks you for your readership and wishes you a great summer!

 

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A-CDM at Brussels Airport: Roadmap to Implementation

  In the previous episode, we made acquaintance with the stakeholders that were involved in successfully deploying Airport Collaborative Decision Making at Brussels Airport. Let's now dive again into the 6 A-CDM concept elements and discover how a successful implementation can be approached. This is part 1 of 2.

First Initiatives

We need to go way back into time...back to 2000, when A-CDM entered the scene here while the whole project was still pretty much in its conceptional phase. Of course, the fact that the airport is only a 10' drive away from the place where Airport Collaborative Decision making was conceived (Eurocontrol, that is), may have facilitated the decision for initial project set-up.

But it were the big network expansion plans of Belgium's national carrier Sabena that formed the trigger to tackle future airport infrastructure capacity restrictions by means of a daring new concept of sharing turn-around progress data among airport stakeholders and the Network Manager.

Back then, I worked in ground handler operations and I  clearly remember a couple of legendary meetings where the target times concept was explained, and how those totally new elements would eventually have to be integrated in long-standing operational procedures. This was pioneering stuff. Never done before at any European airport and we were all excited, but still: the dreaded A-CDM culture change as opposed to the force of habit; even 15 years later still underestimated by many...

Busy afternoon at the B-concourse (source: Brussels Airport Company via Flickr)

Set-back

In a proof-of-concept phase, target off-blocks times (TOBT) were generated out of commonly known estimated departure times, and shared 'subliminally' with our ANSP Belgocontrol, along with the data set which we had been sharing historically (I explain the data exchange environment later on). Already then, pre-departure sequence build simulations (TSAT) based on those TOBT's made for significant improvements in taxi-out time duration and runway troughput.

But in the aftermath of '9/11', and especially when Sabena went bankrupt and seized operations on November 7th 2001, we found ourselves working at an airport where capacity was all of a sudden no longer an issue. So why still plunging head-first into this wildly concept, of which nobody could prove until then that it actually worked?

Efforts, progress and project communication became ever more 'subliminal', and the lot balanced on the point of going into hibernation. Although airport capacity enhancement is but one of the reasons why you should implement A-CDM, it explains why it was only 7 years later, in may 2008, that the Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Brussels Airport community. This time, we were back for good.

Share What You Care For

 

Airport CDM

The last page of the 2008 Brussels Airport MoU (courtesy of the BRU A-CDM team)

Honestly, that's about it when you come out of the boardroom after signing the MoU and you start making plans to cater for A-CDM's baseline: provide the correct data to the right people at the right time, in order for them make the right decisions. Luckily, we could take advantage of the fairly unique set-up of the airport's Central Data Base to host our ACISP (check here for A-CDM's most common abbreviations).

Operational data from the ground handlers, home carriers, the ANSP and the airport slot coordinator is streamed to a central platform, managed by the airport operator, using system-to-system data links. Works both ways, because partners can retrieve each others data via the platform and get a complete view on airport operations in their respective IT systems.

CDB, Our in-house developed airport operational data base (AODB) concept has been around for 25 years -now that's what we call a legacy system!- and is more than ever proving its relevance. While long-standing data exchange set-ups are being upgraded, new links with airport stakeholders have recently been established, and opportunities lie ahead for sharing airport data in airline operator mobile apps. Data with local ATC is exchanged in AIDX format, and has been closely looked at by experts in the field of System Wide Information Management (SWIM).

A-CDM

The Brussels Airport Central Data Base (courtesy of Brussels Airport Company IT Dept.)

This goes to show that we could skip on a tendering procedure to select new software for the data exchange, and  'immediately' start defining the A-CDM information elements to be developed in the existing architecture as per functional requirements, and display them in the up-and-running interfaces.

But even more important than the tech stuff was the fact that there was a data exchange culture, already present among the stakeholders. Of course, budgets needed to be secured to perform the necessary developments, but backed by the commitment to this point stated in the MoU, the 'usual data exchange suspects' quickly found themselves sitting around the table in one of the recurrent program meetings, and concluded on a development trajectory without much fuss.

'A-CDM is not about systems, it's about procedures'. It's a statement you come across on the internet all too often. I agree. So let's focus on project governance in part 2. On how the milestones were plotted in the turn-around process, how they show up in the common situational awareness tools for the airport community, and how the stakeholders eventually integrated them in their day-to-day operations.

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

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