Insight in Operational Efficiency

Flight by flight: improved insight into operational efficiency 

How do you obtain better insight in the operational performance of the Air Traffic Management (ATM) system? Air Traffic Control the Netherlands (LVNL) has conducted various activities over the past years with this goal in mind, and with success: LVNL now improved its insight in performance relating to safety, efficiency and the environment. The next step is to obtain improved insight into the efficiency of individual flights. With the help of MovingDot and To70, KLM has examined how efficient flown flight profiles really are. Furthermore an analysis was made of the way to optimize flight profiles in the air traffic management system.

How can you improve the efficiency of the ATM system?

This is a difficult question because the answer depends on questions like: What is the weather like? What airspace is available? And what routes are possible within this? How do aircraft use the runways and how is this traffic managed properly? These are all factors that greatly affect operational efficiency.  KLM delivered operational data of 14 city pairs, i.e. connections between different cities. The challenge was to find efficiency improvements on the basis of these data? Henk Waltman from MovingDot explains precisely how they tackled this project in two steps. 

Step 1: examine the different city pairs

“We determined the following for each city pair: 

  • Where can deviations occur in operational flight processing?
  • What are the causes of these deviations in the ATM system?
  • What are the consequences for operational efficiency?

We did this at different times: during peak times, at night, but also during military activity.” 

Step 2: compare the number of actual and planned flights

“We subsequently compared the number of actual flights against the number of planned flights. In doing so we looked both at taxi paths and climb and descent profiles. With respect to the route, we determined the differences between the actual route flown and the preferred route. We compared climb and descent profiles to continuous climb/descent operations. We expressed the differences in efficiency indicators.” 

Figure 01 Efficiency indicators for approaching traffic 

Clearer efficiency indicators create improved insight

The analysis showed that matching up efficiency indicators leads to improved insight. The matching of efficiency indicators helps to manage mutual expectations from the ANSP and Airline Operators.

It is therefore important for the ANSP and Airline Operators to use flight efficiency indicators and to coordinate improvement actions with each other properly. This enables us to further optimise flights in Dutch airspace.  

Equal expectations are important

Research also shows that the LVNL and KLM both view the problem from a different perspective. LVNL works to achieve the best-possible flight efficiency for all air traffic flows. KLM concentrates on optimising individual flights.  Further study is required to achieve optimum flight efficiency with a shared perspective.   

More available military airspace results in greater flight efficiency

What else did we discover? Allocation of the availability of sections of Dutch airspace for military or civilian air traffic adheres strictly to the established Functional Use of Airspace (FUA) levels and Conditional Routes (CDRs) categories. “Can we use military airspace more frequently for civilian air traffic? This could significantly improve the flight efficiency of a number of city pairs.” At the moment use of CDRs or direct routes can only be planned during a small part of the day. This makes it almost impossible to improve flight efficiency. 

What are the main recommendations?  

1. Draw up a set of efficiency indicators and reference values for flight processing. 

Ensure that both KLM and the LVNL agree to this set. Apply this set to initiatives for optimising flight efficiency and to changes to the ATM system. This makes the effect on flight efficiency clearly visible. 

2. Regularly inventory airspace use requirements.

This needs to be done for both military and civilian air traffic, as these requirements change constantly. Use these requirements to set revised FUA levels and CDR categories for an agreed period. This allows the availability of airspace and routes for all users to be matched as closely as possible to requirements.

Further research to achieve further improvements

MovingDot recommends continuing the analysis in this study based on clear principles and current, precise flight data from KLM. “This will create more comprehensive and accurate insight into further potential improvements in efficiency,” Henk Waltman concludes.

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