New Airport Operations Plan helps airports integrate better with the network and improve the efficiency of their own operations

13 November 2018

SESAR’s Airport Operations Centre (APOC) concept represents a big step forward for airports, providing them with the means to integrate even more efficiently into the European network in a collaborative approach that involves all actors (airport operators, airport coordinators, airlines, air navigation service providers), operating at each airport in a harmonised approach. However, while the APOC idea is considered a must-have for bigger airports, not every airport is likely to establish an APOC physically, as not all airports have the local scope and/or size to justify such an investment.

How to get started, that’s a gap that operational stakeholders have identified, and have asked EUROCONTROL as the Network Manager to develop a guideline or “Concept Document” on the establishment of an Airport Operations Plan (AOP) in partnership with them. Produced by an NDOP (Network Directors of Operations) Task Force, the AOP Concept Document describes the principles behind setting up a successful local collaboration that enables operations at and around airports that are transparent and collaborative, with relevant information sharing.

The document provides hands-on guidance on how to establish an AOP and, crucially, how to link it to the Network Operations Plan (NOP).

It describes the ‘who-how-what’ of Airport-Network integration with a focus on:

  • Agreed definitions
  • Which stakeholders/actors are involved in the process
  • What are their roles and tasks
  • When do they have to take action.

The document will enable operational stakeholders to set up AOPs in a harmonised way and connect with the Network Operations Plan (NOP).

The NDOP approved the AOP Concept Document at its 21st meeting on 6 November 2018, and the document is now available for airports to get started. The NDOP also agreed as a second step to establish a new Task Force that will develop more detailed operational procedures between an APOC and the Network Manager Operations Centre (NMOC), which will take place in the course of 2019.

There has already been a highly positive reaction from operational stakeholders. For Anthony van der Veldt, Assistant Director Safety & Flight Operations Europe at IATA, it offers nothing less than a “paradigm shift in the level of services we receive from the individual airports and local ANSPs through the Network Manager”, reflecting the fact that “airlines’ schedules and their daily operations are the most relevant commercial drivers for the Airport Operational Plans”.

Stakeholders have also praised the practical, hands-on nature of the document. “The European network is under severe strain impacting airlines, airports, ANSP’s and not least our passengers! This document goes ‘back to basics’ to demonstrate clearly and concisely why and how we must work together to deliver incremental positive changes to the network, incorporating both the ground AND the air as mutually reliant partners”, declared Alison Bates, Head of ATM Strategy and Deployment - Operations Team at London Heathrow Airport.

And for Johan Steinkjer, Technical Director ATM at AVINOR’s Airport ANS Department and ACI EUROPE representative in the NDOP, the great strength of the document is that it is “something understandable that I can give to the airport to start the work”.

EUROCONTROL as the NM firmly believes that the AOP Concept Document will become a key tool for all actors and help take airport-network operation to the next level. The Concept for the establishment of an Airport Operations Plan (AOP) is available below.

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