A successful trial at Alicante Airport

10 January 2018

We recently ran a trial at Alicante airport which proved that automating the process for calculating Target Off Block Times can save time and effort for airlines, ground handlers and ATC. We did this with various partners in the SESAR 2020 project on enhanced airport collaborative performance monitoring.

A quick, smooth turnaround process - that is, loading, unloading and servicing an aircraft to make it ready for its next take-off - is essential in an airport’s overall throughput. We wanted to see if we could develop a low-cost, low workload approach to monitoring the turnaround processes at smaller airports which have fewer resources than larger ones.

So, we decided to test our approach at the Alicante regional airport. We worked with the airport operator, the air navigation service provider (FerroNATS) and the entire ground-handling community.

We ran a week-long “shadow-mode” exercise on a validation platform at Alicante. The platform was connected to the Network Manager to receive Flight Update Messages and a full set of Departure Planning Information messages. We had a database to capture aircraft status, including boarding status.

There was also a position in the ATC tower to monitor the departure sequence. Controllers appreciated the visual display of the estimated runway demand for the next hour!

The usual Target Off Block Times, TBOT, process has 16 key elements all of which need to be monitored. We were able to reduce these to just seven!

By automating the aircraft monitoring process, we managed to significantly reduce the ground handlers’ workload - and so help make the throughput process more efficient and faster.

We believe that this simplified, automated approach could work well for certain airports - and would give more accurate flight departure estimates to the Network Manager, so helping the network function better overall!

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