Integrated control centers are allowing airports to ‘see the big picture’, as a vital tool in managing airport operations efficiently and effectively.
When passengers, bags and aircraft start stacking up at the airport due to a major disruption, response teams need to work fast. That means having simultaneous access to as much information as possible.
But at too many airports there’s a lack of visibility of the bigger picture and poor exchange of information between the airport operators, air traffic controllers, airlines and ground handlers.
The result is critical minutes lost trying to coordinate between different command and control centers –time that should be spent executing a well drilled plan.
Even during routine operations, having separate centers of operational control can be inefficient and lead to slow decision-making at both the tactical and strategic level.
In a bid to improve the situation, airport operators are seeking to move away from the segregated approach to command and control functions that has evolved as the airport has expanded. The aim now is to bring together all the key operational voices into a single command and control center.
Wayne Matrose, Senior Business Development Manager at SITA, believes the growing congestion at airports makes the change inevitable.
“There are more passengers and more aircraft every day. Airports operations are under pressure, working to their max, and beyond, in some cases,” he says.
“Just to keep normal operations running smoothly means airport operators need to perform more efficiently every day. This isn’t sustainable. The traditional siloed setup cannot cope and is costing airports money through slow and reactionary decision-making - particularly in times of irregular operation.
“It’s much more efficient to have the right people, processes and data sources working together in the same room so that there’s a single view of the airport’s operations. It speeds up decision making and emergency response capabilities. This is what an integrated airport control center gives you,” says Matrose.
We can provide a common operating picture across the airport from a single location.
Integrated airport control centers are already common at major airports, but increasingly they’re becoming accessible to medium and smaller operators. One airport that SITA has worked with to design and build such a control center is Dusseldorf Airport, Germany.
It proved to be a success story from which SITA has developed an integrated airport control center solution called SITA ControlBridge.
Assembled in a modular portfolio, the solution can integrate and facilitate command and control of core airport functions, covering airport operations, physical security, and engineering and facilities management.
In addition, several ancillary or supporting functions can be included, such as baggage management, service desk and internal IT support, as well as a full suite of solutions to support the airport’s emergency response mode of operation.
“We can provide a common operating picture across the airport from a single location,” says Matrose.
“Operational staff get all the information they need to make the right decision at the right time, helping to remove the guesswork from the job. As a result, everybody is operating at the same level, getting the big picture without missing the details.”
Recognizing that each airport is unique, the solution is modular, customizable and scalable to meet both current and future needs of the airport. The design and build process uses a progressive approach, which allows the airport operator to extend its integrated command and control capabilities over time, in line with its growth expectations.
Dissatisfied with the overall punctuality of its operation, Düsseldorf Airport set out to do something about it. In addition, the airport was keen to evolve the maturity level of their operation through compliance with the EUROCONTROL SESAR Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) initiative and program.
The design, delivery, and commissioning of an integrated Airport Control Center (ACC) was considered a central component to achieving this.
SITA was contracted to design and deliver the ACC enabling multi-stakeholder occupancy in the control room. SITA was also selected to provide several applications to enable A-CDM compliance, including Runway Performance Manager for the early identification of potential capacity constraints.
“The progress of the project and the result with the ACC now in operation confirmed that we have made the right choice. The competent consulting during every phase of the project allowed us to finish the project within the scheduled time and budget,” says Thomas Hansen, Düsseldorf Airport’s ACC Manager.
SITA’s recent report, ‘The future is predictable’, references EUROCONTROL’s observation that we are witnessing improvements in airports’ management of disruption and adverse conditions, along with their ability to recover from them.
The organization’s impact assessment of A-CDM, published in 2016, cites record rates of recovery from disruption at Düsseldorf Airport after a 60-minute runway closure in November 2015: the airport had recovered completely (every delayed flight departed) in just 45 minutes.
One problem that has held back smaller airports has been the time it takes to go through the process from the drawing board to a fully integrated command and control capability. The extra time adds to the cost and delays the benefits.
To address the issue, SITA uses a design-build partnership approach, with compartmentalization of investment and risk, as an alternative to the challenges inherent in the traditional design-bid-build approach, which tend to be both more expensive and take longer to complete.
“A lot of the success of our approach is that we deliver a total solution. As a single supplier, customers like that we can cover all three of the critical elements for building an integrated command and control function – the operational model, the work environment for the staff and the technology solutions,” Matrose explains.
“Often you find these three elements are split among multiple suppliers adding to both the risk and complexity of building the control center.”
In the end, the best plan is making sure everybody is prepared and on the same page. An integrated command center is critical to this.
Having designed and implemented IT systems at more than 1,000 airports, SITA has developed expertise in getting airport operations to run smoothly. Inevitably disruption occurs, but how well the airport responds to the situation can make a big difference to the impact on the passenger, airlines and not least the cost to the airport.
As Matrose says: “In the end, the best plan is making sure everybody is prepared and on the same page. An integrated control center is critical to this.”
Finding efficiencies to keep operations running smoothly while handling the growth in passengers and aircraft is a constant challenge for airport operators – even the biggest ones. Top 5 international airport player, VINCI Airports, turned to SITA for help to deliver new efficiencies and synergies across its global network of 35 airports.
VINCI is implementing SITA’s multi-airport Airport Management Solution starting with 22 airports in Portugal, France and Cambodia. The system will provide VINCI airports with the tools to manage equipment and staff in real-time.
SITA will also introduce its business intelligence portal, AirportPulse, which will provide airport teams the ability to monitor, predict and manage daily airport operations. They will have a dynamic view of the airport passenger flows, allowing them to quickly respond to any changes on the airport floor.
According to Nicolas Notebaert, CEO VINCI Concessions and Chairman, VINCI Airports: “Given that we operate in airports that are geographically spread out and diverse in terms of size and markets served, we needed a solution that brought some commonality in the operational systems used by our airports yet was able to accommodate the unique requirements in each location. SITA understood our requirements and provides a fit-for-purpose solution.”