Optimized Situational Awareness Improves Ramp Work

New technologies provide a more comprehensive and intelligent view of the AOA and help organize ramp work.


In the midst of a runway expansion expected to be completed in September of 2014, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) has embarked on an initiative to increase the capacity of its airfield.

Dan Bartholomew, manager of airport planning at FLL, says that due to the new 8,000-foot runway, and a plethora of associated geometry that goes along with it, now was the “perfect scenario” for implementing an airport information management system and electronic airport layout plan (eALP).

A former corporate pilot and aviation consultant, Bartholomew has been with FLL for four years. He relates that the airport’s biggest concern with regard to the airfield operations area (AOA) is probably universal:

  • Situational awareness on the airfield.
  • Incursion management.

“The other concern is since the geometry of the airfield over the next two years is going to be changing in significant ways,” Bartholomew adds, “we need the ability to have continuously updated airfield geometry maps so that individuals riding around on the airfield know where they are at any time.”

In addition, the information management system and eALP should prove to be a big benefit helping ramp agents keep up the increased capacity of the workload.

“We are implementing something right now that is equivalent to a virtual ramp control that will be able to track what flights are inbound, what gates they are going to and when there’s an existing aircraft at the gate currently,” Bartholomew explains. “That also allows us to do last minute changes … for example, we get a lot of diversions due to thunderstorms; this technology allows us to instantly determine what aircraft can fit in what gates.

“We don’t typically get aircraft types such as the 747 here; we can accommodate them, however our gates are designed for smaller aircraft such as a 737 or 757. If a 747 comes in, we need to know which gates can accommodate that aircraft, and usually we won’t know that until it’s on final approach.

“So the airport information management system will allow us to make better informed decisions in real-time.”

 

FIRST STEPS

When embarking on an eALP initiative, first and foremost, it’s good to have a plan in place, and to know what data to collect and how to collect it.

“For us, the plan has been imperative … it has helped us focus on how we are going to proceed in a very methodical fashion,” Bartholomew explains. “It’s important to be aware of all of the types of systems and technology assets are available. We don’t want to collect data in a format that isn’t usable in the various systems we already have in place.

“It is a large endeavor; it requires hiring an aerial photography firm, surveyors, putting the data in a format that meets the FAA advisory circulars, performing all of the quality control checks, and then pushing that data to FAA to get an approved eALP.”

For help, Bartholomew called in Woolpert, a design, geospatial and infrastructure management firm based in Dayton, OH.

Mark Ricketson, enterprise information management (EIM) project director for Woolpert, has been an aviation consultant for more than 15 years helping airports with technology business processes and implementation plans.

Lately, Ricketson has been working with what FAA has been asking airports to comply with: new geographic information system (GIS) standards. Ricketson spent a year as acting GIS manager for the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and has been with Woolpert for four years.

“I think eventually every airport will have an eALP; that is certainly the FAA’s goal,” Ricketson adds. “The FAA intends to have Part 139 airports completed in say the next five to 10 years. In the long run, the FAA’s plan is to focus on the large hub airports, then medium, then small, and on down the line.”

 

PREVENTING INCURSIONS

“Right now we are looking at ways to connect some locators on our operations maintenance vehicles and grabbing feed from the ASDE-X feed [ground-based situational awareness radar],” Bartholomew says.

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