With rising air traffic levels now topping the pre-financial crisis ones, airport congestion is becoming an issue once again. Airport capacity and throughput need to be managed as efficiently as possible in order to minimise delay, especially at large and medium-sized airports where knock-on delay can quickly escalate. So, two new concepts have been designed to help our airport stakeholders to better handle their local capacity: Airport Operations Centres (APOC) and the Airport Operations Plan (AOP).
In order to expedite the operational implementation of these concepts and connect them with the ATM network, the EUROCONTROL Network Manager (NM), together with seven Airport Operators representing 10 airports, applied for funding from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). The CEF is “a key EU funding instrument to promote growth, jobs and competitiveness through targeted infrastructure investment […] to make travel easier and more sustainable.”
The CEF granted funding for the two AOP-NOP (Network Operation Plan) integration projects led by NM.
The 10 partner airports involved are: Frankfurt, London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Paris Orly, Amsterdam Schiphol, Barcelona - El Prat, Madrid - Barajas, Palma de Mallorca, Brussels and Stockholm Arlanda.
The CEF is a EU programme under the responsibility of the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA), the successor to the Trans-European Transport Network Executive Agency (TEN-T EA).
Given that it is essential to integrate airports more closely into the network, collaborative concepts are being developed under the SESAR programme, building on the success of the A-CDM (airport collaborative decision-making) project. Two of these concepts are Airport Operations Centres (APOC) and the Airport Operations Plan (AOP) on the airport side, as well as the collaborative Network Operations Plan (NOP) on the network side.
An APOC manages an airport’s operations in both normal and exceptional conditions. The AOP is a rolling plan that covers the pre-tactical and tactical phases by providing dynamic data updates as an operational situation evolves.
Through the timely two-way exchange of relevant airport and network information between airports and the Network Manager, AOP-NOP integration improves both the airport’s and the network’s operational performance. Situational awareness is heightened and issues can be contained before they can affect other parts of the network.
The exchange with the Network Manager through the AOP-NOP integration delivers local throughput status information earlier than was previously the case. This information can also be shared with other airports, airspace users and ANSPs (air navigation service providers), so facilitating improved decision-making. This is expected to improve network predictability and add to the improvements brought about with A-CDM.
Closer monitoring, combined with better fine-tuning of local processes and the earlier exchange of information in the network will help reduce delays, even with higher traffic levels. Fuel burn and aircraft emissions will also diminish, so benefiting the environment.