Optimisation Outbound Cluster – ACARS

The glass is half full; Increasing Schiphol DCL Utilisation to improve the outbound process 

Can we realise short-term improvements to the outbound process by reducing the workload for controller and pilots? This depends on increased use of ACARS for pre-departure clearance (DCL). This is the result of the KDC project, ‘Optimising Outbound Cluster (2017)’. The follow-up project ‘Schiphol DCL Utilisation’ further investigated if we can increase DCL utilisation from the current 70% to more than 90%. In this article we share the main results.

90% DCL utilisation is unrealistic in the next three to five years

It is unrealistic to aim for 90% DCL utilisation at Schiphol in the short term (three to five years). This is mainly due to lack of equipage and company policy not to use ACARS by some major aircraft operators at Schiphol.

80% is more realistic

More realistic is to aim for 80% in the short term. How can we improve DCL utilisation to reach this goal? It is recommended that efforts be made in three areas:

  1. Airport information: it should be stated more clearly in the AIP information about Schiphol that DCL is the preferred method for acquiring pre-departure clearance.
  2. Active communication: the airport should start initiatives to actively communicate to airlines that DCL is the preferred method for acquiring pre-departure clearance. This could for example be done via newsletters, posters, or flyers.
  3. Specific airline support: willing aircraft operators should be supported by giving them regular feedback on their DCL performance data. This information is available from ATC and will help airlines to improve and maintain a high level of DCL utilisation.

More ACARS equipped aircraft will also help

The study also finds that equipage is one reason for not using DCL. Therefore fleet renewal by aircraft operators, introducing more ACARS equipped aircraft into their fleet, will likely improve overall DCL utilisation at Schiphol.

We have to focus on the right airlines

The focus of improvement efforts must be the group of airlines that operate daily at Schiphol. This group represents about 95% of all departures. They are therefore decisive in reaching a DCL utilisation target.

Figure 1, Airlines operating daily at Schiphol is the determining group in efforts to improve DCL utilisation.

But, 80% is not so bad!

Although the realistic target of 80% falls short of the 90% identified in the earlier study it still represents a clear workload reduction for controllers and pilots. It is also worth noting that 80% is a conservative estimate. A higher DCL utilisation is certainly possible. So, at this stage the glass is most certainly half full!

Figure 2, Airlines in group 1, the daily operators, are divided into three groups. More than 90% DCL utilisation (dark blue), between 90% and 1% (light blue) and below 1% (no visible bar). The improvement potential lays in the light blue middle group.

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