UK airports should share real-time arrival and departure information to improve their operational efficiency, a review has concluded.
The Airports Commission has produced an interim report after carrying out an independent review into whether or not the UK needs another runway. It concluded that one additional runway needs to be in operation in the south east by 2030, but that airports can optimise their operations through existing systems to make the most of capacity in the meantime.
The commission said: “While some delays are inevitable, for example, those caused by the most severe weather events such as heavy snow, the optimisation of the interactions between airspace and airport operations could improve the system’s resilience and ability to respond to disruption, reducing delays and cancellations currently associated with high winds, for example.”
The optimisation strategy that the commission recommended focused largely on London’s Heathrow Airport, which uses an Airport Collaborative Decision Making (ACDM) system based on BPM technology from Pegasystems to provide access to accurate and timely information.
“The approach to aircraft holding [when delays cause aircraft to be held at departure airports or to circle in the air until given clearance to land] observed today is partly a consequence of the lack of sharing of real-time information about when aircraft are going to arrive in London airspace,” the commission said.
“Sharing operational information will allow all those involved in processing arriving aircraft to prepare in advance, increasing the predictability and speed of the aircraft turnaround process.”
The commission said that UK airports should follow Heathrow and Gatwick’s lead in investing in an ACDM system.
“The industry should implement ACDM quickly and seize the opportunity it provides to make use of the data collected by the system to help inform the definition of airport schedules and to monitor compliance against these,” the commission said.
Heathrow and Gatwick have invested heavily in an ACDM system that is expected to start delivering improvements, such as reducing delays on the ground, reducing costs to airlines and ground handlers, giving air traffic control more flexibility in how they prioritise and sequence departures, and optimising the use of the airport’s capacity.
“ACDM has allowed Gatwick to increase the number of movements it can process per hour at the airport from 50 to 55 movements at peak times,” the commission found.
It added: “Further benefits can be derived if more UK airports put departure information into the system so that air traffic control both in the UK and in Europe can receive real-time information about target take-off times."
The commission recommended that airports with more than 30,000 aircraft movements a year should invest in this Departure Planning Information (DPI) functionality by April 2015.
In 2011, Heathrow revealed that it was able to keep all flights running on time during national strikes, thanks to its business process management software from Pegasystems.