Airport Program Aims to Increase Efficiency

Is collaborative decision making the next big play in the reorganization of ground handling?


Imagine a world in which a ground handler knew with certainty the exact time an aircraft would touch down. Its gate arrival would be known with a precision measured in seconds, and any operational requirements would be at your fingertips, including the exact moment it had to leave the gate and be airborne again.

Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) will make all of this, and more, a reality — at least according to its supporters. Airport CDM aims to improve operational efficiency at airports. In theory it will reduce delays, improve the predictability of events during a flight, and optimize the utilization of resources — both in the air and on the ground. There is a particular focus on turnaround times and pre-departure sequencing.

Information sharing is the cornerstone of the process. Creating a common situational awareness is the source from which all other ideas flow. It allows a clearly defined pre-departure sequencing, for example, which in turn allows the Target Start-Up Approval Time (TSAT) to be calculated.

A Target Off-Block Time (TOBT) is the next marker in the A-CDM concept. This generates a transparent take-off time, and provides air traffic management with a degree of logistical efficiency. More accurate take-off information means reduced apron and taxiway congestion and allows available slots to be used more efficiently, reducing the current need to allow for buffer capacity and slot wastage.

Once one airport has successfully implemented CDM, that airport is ready to connect to the Collaborative Management of Flight Updates, which takes into account all airports in the A-CDM “universe,” enabling air traffic flow management slots to become reactive.

The theory is developed enough for airports to be embracing A-CDM positively. In Europe, ATM provider Eurocontrol, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and Airports Council International are all engaged in pushing the concept. In all, 32 European gateways are in various stages of A-CDM introduction, analysis, or implementation.

In Germany, early adopter Munich, which implemented A-CDM in June 2007 has reported position overlaps — delays waiting for a free parking stand — are down to just 2.1 percent while improvements in runway waiting time averaged almost 30 percent, down from 4.39 minutes in 2005 to 3.09 minutes in 2009. Over the same period slot adherence improved over 20 percent to 90.3 percent. Munich handles around 1,100 movements daily so the savings are significant.

Frankfurt Airport started an A-CDM trial in November 2010, and the “Airport CDM harmonization Germany” is being rolled out countrywide. This will facilitate the exchange of information and best practices between the various German CDM airports. Aside from Frankfurt and Munich, airports in Berlin, Düsseldorf, and Stuttgart are involved, as well as the German air navigation service provider, DFS. Hamburg Airport is expected to join the group in due course.

Capitalizing on the concept
Airport CDM is winning plaudits all over the world. In the Middle East, Dubai is also enthusiastically learning all it can about the concept.

Nick Moore, senior vice president, airline services, of resident ground handler, Dnata, says Dubai does not have CDM technology in place, but the strategic direction of both Dnata/Emirates and Dubai Airports is to fully understand and capitalize on the concept. It will form part of a groundbreaking “Hub-Matrix” project that aims to enhance efficiency across the aviation spectrum.

“CDM is a positive step forward as it brings all the ground activities together under one IT framework,” says Moore. “This technology was pioneered by ATC authorities who were looking at the best use of airspace. For the industry to work exhaustively towards the best use of its resources and to ensure the best customer service is the required outcome.”

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