More and more Airports and Air Traffic Control Units are reassessing their “Information Technology Strategy “ and how to support their mission critical issues of the 1990’s and to ensure that they have in place solutions that will carry them well into the 21st century.
Many Airports and ATC Units have already moved towards open systems where information can be accessed and shared across a multitude of disparate hardware systems, operating systems and networks.
Senior management realise that in order that the different departments contained within an airport to work in harmony, they must link and integrate their resources, people, equipment, facilities and information across the airport’s local or wide area network and where necessary on the web.
Figure 1 shows a typical airport management system with information flowing between systems via a central database connected the airport LAN or WAN.
The systems can be from one supplier or can be disparate systems from different suppliers.
Simple trigger functions outside of the database are used to trigger functions between the different functions. For instance the landing time entered by ATC automatically triggers landed on the flight information display system.
Triggers can be inside or outside the database. Triggers outside of the database give complete system independence and allows upgrades from many different sources.
There are many departments on an airport that want to have information supplied in real time. Some of these are discussed below: -
Air Traffic Control
In any air traffic environment data flowing in and out is normally via the AFTN. This comprises of flight plans and information on flights that the unit is handling, such as slot time requests, delays etc.
Typically, the required information can be entered in ICAO format and UTC and can contain the following information: -
- Aircraft Registration
- Runway Used
- Actual Time of Landing and Departure
- Number of Circuits
- Number and Type of Approaches
- New Estimates of Arrival and Departure
- New Flight Information
Aircraft registrations are required so that the aircraft type can be retrieved from the database and this information can be used for correct allocation of stands/air-bridges, aeronautical billing on weight of aircraft etc.
Runway used creates statistical information and assists with the planning of runway maintenance.
Actual time of landing and departure can be used for aeronautical billing of parking and can be used to trigger an update to the flight information status.
Number of circuits and approaches are used for aeronautical billing and statistical purposes.
A major point to bear in mind with the way is that the airlines/handling agents are also being updated on estimates of arrival and departure. Therefore it has to be agreed by all the party’s concerned on who will be responsible for the updating the information.
Airlines and handling agents know of new flight information and if both parties’ have the ability to create new flights then a minute difference in time can create two flights instead of the one.
ATC information can be used to create mandatory statistics required by some Government agencies such as the National Air traffic Service (NATS) who use the information for planning purposes and in some case for airspace usage.
Information entered in ICAO format and UTC and consists of the following information: -
- Aircraft Registration
- Point of Entry into Air Space
- Point of Departure of Air Space
- Airport Point of Departure and/or Landing
- Times at the Different Points of Entry or Departure
Aircraft registration is entered so that the aircraft type and weight can be used in the calculation of the fee.
Airport of origin/destination or point of entry and exit are used in the calculation of the fee.
Times are entered if entry and exit time in the FIR forms part of the billing calculation.
Information can be entered by an airline or handling agent will normally be in IATA format in local time or UTC.
Information entered can consist of the following: -
- Block On/Off Times
- Passenger and Freight Information
- Check-In Desk Opening and Closing
- Departure Gate Opening and Closing
- New Flight Details (If not entered by ATC)
- New Estimates of Arrival and Departure Times (If not entered by ATC)
- Seasonal Schedule Information
Block on and off times can be used by the aeronautical billing system to calculate parking time. Another usage is for statistical information on the time it take aircraft types to taxi onto stand from landing and off stand to departure.
Passenger and freight information can be used to calculate aeronautical charges and produce statistical information for load factor analysis.
Check-In opening and closing can be used for triggering the flight information display system status remarks and by the aeronautical billing system.
Departure gate opening and closing can be used for triggering the flight information display system and by the aeronautical billing system.
Seasonal schedule information can be entered and produces the daily mayfly information, which in turn is the basis of the daily flight information display information.
Information can be entered in either ICAO or IATA in local time or UTC.
- Stand Allocation
- Block On/Off (If not entered by the airline/handling agent)
- First Bag Last Bag Times
- Ground Services Supplied to the Aircraft
Allocation of stands by aircraft type can be displayed to ATC who can direct the aircraft to the correct stand/air-bridge without having to contact ATC by radio or telephone.
First and last bag times can be entered so that statistical information can be obtained against the published IATA unloading times. This can assist in the apron equipment and man power planning.
Ground services can be entered so that these items can be calculated and invoiced by the aeronautical billing system.
An interface can be provided to a specialist stand allocation system which assists in working out stand allocation. This can be a two-way interface; both entering and importing back updated stand allocation information.
Flight Information Display System
This system is really the front end to an airport management system. It displays information to the public in a format selected by the airport. The displays are made up by the information being entered or by interface or triggered from other systems.
Figure 2 shows a typical modern flight information display using Internet Explorer as the display medium. Advanced scrolling techniques are used to display code-shared logos, flight numbers, multi-sector airports and multi-lingual remarks.
Using these advanced display techniques allows code shared logos and flight numbers; multi-sector airport and dual language remarks are can be displayed on the check-in, arrival, departure, departure gate and baggage carousel screens.
It is now possible to trigger the public address system to made multi-lingual flight announcements in at the same time as the displays are updating.
Staff Management Displays
Displaying information to the staff is a vital part of any management system. With the advent of PCs and LAN/WAN networks it is a simple task to display and update information to airport staff in real-time in whichever format they wish. Information can also be displayed via the airport web site thus allowing many additional people access to information such as Customs and Excise, Immigration etc. Gone is the need for the old fashioned small monitor staff displays located at strategic locations within the airport.
Good information can cut down the amount of radio or telephone calls required by staff to keep colleagues abreast of changing events.
Figure 3 shows a typical modern internal staff management display on a PC connected via the airport LAN.
By the use of advanced techniques additional information can be displayed in a separate window by flight. Activation of the window can be via mouse-over technology.
This forms the basis of all commercial flight movements usually for a season. The movements can be provisional or confirmed.
The information can be entered in manually or by electronic means such as electronic data transfer, magnetic media or by keying in the information.
The scheduled can contain but limited to the following: -
- Code Shared Flight Numbers
- Multi-Sector Airports
- Aircraft Type
- Estimated Time Of Arrival
- Estimated Time of Departure
- Operational Days Of The Week
- Exception Dates
- Allocated Resources Including:
● Check-In Desks
● Check-In Time
● Departure Lounges/Gates
Flights can be matched so that if the arriving aircraft is delayed a message can be then given to the handling agent/airline reminding them that the delay may affect the outbound aircraft
Airport management can then use the data to plan all of their resources and can also form the basis of a budget by utilising the financial information contained within the financial systems.
Information from any system is only as good as the data entered in.
Both printed and on screen reports are a vital management tool that can be used to improve working practices and to provide information that good business decisions can be made.
Typical reports are as follows: -
- Daily Mayfly
- Load Factors and Income Reports by: -
- Aircraft Movements - Hourly Activity
- Passenger Movements - Hourly Activity
- Traffic Distribution by Airline, Aircraft, Airport
- This Year to Last Year Comparisons by: -
● Total Movements by Movement Type
● Percentage of Passengers by Operator
● Aircraft Movement by Operator
● Operator Within Route
- Traffic Analysis Reports by: -
● Total Traffic by Origin/Destination
● Commercial & Regular by Origin/Destination
● Total Traffic by Aircraft Category
● Commercial Traffic by Airline
● Commercial Traffic by Aircraft Type
● Commercial Traffic by Major City
● Average All Up Weight by Airline
Invoicing is the lifeblood of any company and airports are no different. Most modern systems utilise a special billing engine specifically designed for the airport market place.
The aeronautical invoicing system has to incorporate the following: -
- Cash Invoicing
- Credit Invoicing
Cash invoicing should cater for any size of aircraft.
Credit invoicing should allow for multi-currency invoicing such as the Euro.
Ledger systems should contain all financial information within the: -
- Sales Ledger (Accounts Receivable)
- Purchase Ledger (Accounts Payable)
- Nominal Ledger (General Ledger)
In addition many systems can be supplied with the following additional modules: -
- Bank Reconciliation
- Purchase Order Processing
- Sales Order Processing
- Stock Control
- Fixed Asset Register
- Human Resources
Airport management systems have the ability to ease the work load of staff and convey up to date information to the travelling public. It is very important to plan the data flow and to display the information in a format that can easily be read and acted upon by the various departments within or external to an airport.
As the old saying goes, a picture can speak a thousand words.
Technology moves along at a never-ending pace.
Already the technology exists to automatically update estimated arrival times, aircraft registration number, actual landing and take off times, actual block on/off times, ground services supplied to an aircraft.
Vehicle tagging to display exact location of any vehicle on an airport.
Wireless networking that will allow passengers to access information via their laptop computers, their PDAs and their mobile phones from any location within a terminal building.
As the passenger numbers increase, so will the requirement for real time information, both by the airport staff and the travelling public. Systems installed to-day must have the capacity to cater for the increase in the never ending requirements for up to date information so that decisions can be made for the smoother running of any part of the airport business.