Consolidating Surveillance

NextGen surface technology improves situational awareness; operational efficiency

“If you want to lock the system in on a particular geography of the field; or a particular type of information to be displayed to the user; or to give certain individuals the capability to enter data into the system, you can do that,” says London.

In terms of improving operational efficiency and the customer experience, London says that is the core of Aerobahn’s capability. “The way that airports would use the system would be in the area of optimizing the use of its existing resources,” relates London.

“If an airport wanted a much more accurate view of gate utilization, Aerobahn can provide all of that information not only live, but historically and with replay capability. Replay capability can improve efficiency by looking back at specific incidents to understand what exactly caused congestion on the ramp.”

He also relates that the company has experienced some unexpected results since the Aerobahn system has been live at airports.

“We put the tool in the hands of the user and we think we know how they will use it; and they go off and find five or ten more ways to use it,” says London.

“For example, one of the factors affecting fuel quantity is taxi-out time. To the extent that you have a live real-time picture about how long it’s taking to taxi out, you can make better decisions about how much taxiing fuel factors into the equation of the total fuel requirement.”

It may also be the foundation of a billing system, says London. “If you want precise information about who has landed at your airfield, how long they were on the ground, and when they took off…you can get that information accurately with Aerobahn.”

Aerobahn is NextGen-ready, says London, in that it provides the foundation for capturing the metrics about what happens on an airport surface. “You can actually measure what is occurring on the surface in general, or to a specific region of interest,” says London. “The last step is being able to put into place the policies and procedures that start to extract those efficiencies from the system itself.”

Aerobahn at JFK
What makes JFK unique in this particular case, says London, is that for the first time, the three primary entities at an airport are working together collaboratively on a common surveillance system: the carriers, the airport, and air traffic control.

Japan Airlines (JAL), which offers 13 flights per week non-stop from Tokyo to JFK, began using the Aerobahn system in May of this year. Director of flight operations for JAL at JFK, Joe Gutierrez, says the largest benefit he has seen from the system thus far is situational awareness.

With a staff of five, including himself, Gutierrez relates that among their multi-task-oriented duties involving flight coordination and communication, monitoring aircraft on the ground by listening to the approach tower or ground control radio communication is very difficult.

“Aerobahn is instantaneous situational awareness,” says Gutierrez. “My staff at any point or while conducting any other operation, can simply turn around and look at the display and know precisely where our aircraft is and whatever phase it is in.”

One specific example of how Aerobahn has improved awareness for JAL at JFK is with regard to special weather avoidance procedures and departure fixes. If a particular departure fix is blocked due to weather, Gutierrez’s team can locate on the Aerobahn display where air traffic control is staging aircraft on a taxiway.

“We can use Aerobahn to be able to see what aircraft are stopped and what aircraft are on active taxiways but are not taxiing to the runway,” says Gutierrez. “That gives us an idea of what we might face, especially if another aircraft with the same fix as us is sitting on a taxiway; we would then look at contingency measures.”

There is also statistical data that can be gathered from Aerobahn that will help in some aspects, such as looking back in post-flight analysis, says Gutierrez. “In terms of overall planning and identification of trends, we can use the statistical data that Aerobahn provides; in that respect, Aerobahn will be a valuable tool for JFK as well — Kennedy Airport is a perfect test bed for this system because this airport is a study in inefficiencies.”

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