The Department Air Transport Operations and Infrastructures examines operational concepts, planning processes and infrastructures with respect to their contribution to safe, passenger oriented, ecologic and economic air transport. Through integration of research on passenger behaviour, airlines, airports and air navigation service providers the department provides a comprehensive framework to derive requirements for future aircraft and to contribute from the operations perspective to the assessment of new technologies.
The term operations thereby comprises flight operations as the technical handling of flight missions, as well as the practices of stakeholders, which are economically operating businesses or utility maximizing passengers. The term infrastructure comprises the infrastructural frame required for safe operations in particular, for example the Air Traffic Service (ATS) route system. Hereby, modelling air transport operations is performed with respect to realistic operational constraints, for instance meteorological impact, ATM restrictions, and further regulatory policies (e.g. fuel planning).
The business models of airlines, airports and air navigation service providers as well as their planning and decision-making processes on a strategic, pre-tactical and operational level determine type and operational application of aircraft as well as the utilization of infrastructure on the ground and in the air. Conversely, the availability of new technologies, new regulations, changes of resource prices and demand fluctuations require operational stakeholders to react. Therefore, the department is developing models to enable a cross-departmental, holistic assessment of the technological effects on the overall system level. Different levels of detail - including approaches using deterministic methods, system dynamics and complex systems - and methods related to operations research are used for this purpose.
To determine the benefit of new aircraft concepts or technologies, it is not sufficient to consider existing airline networks and schedules as these are optimized on the basis auf current technologies. Hence, own and existing research and industrial models that can transparently comprehend the airline planning process are used. The models include network planning, segment-based decisions of passengers, fleet planning, aircraft rotation planning und the methods of prioritizing and modification in case of disturbances.
The air traffic flow management is one focal point of the department, because it is especially driven by the interaction of different operational stakeholders. It is essentially characterized by the initiation of measures to control the air traffic during high demand and adverse impact periods, for example by assigning departure slots. Additionally, it guarantees an optimal utilization of air transport infrastructure considering airspace and ground resources. For this purpose, the department possesses tools to model the reactions within the European ATM-network and to validate new solvers for efficient management.
Airports and the airport surrounding area are considered on a highly aggregated level within the department. The central aim is to quantify new airport technologies globally and to abstract the behaviour of different types of airports as functional nodes in the air transportation system. This is done in close collaboration with the DLR Institute of Air Transport and Airport Research and the DLR Institute of Flight Guidance, which are in charge in the context of airport and ATM research. On one hand the department applies detailed research results on an aggregated level and on the other hand returns research questions emerging from the system perspective.
Another focal point is the analysis of the benefit of innovative or even disruptive operational concepts in the context of the overall system. These concepts are primarily assessed in respect of their potential to reduce environmental impact and operating costs. Exemplary concepts are intermediate stop operations (ISO), civil formation flight, supersonic air transport and reduced crew operations. One component to evaluate such concepts is the existing methodology to create emission inventories with respect to ecological implications.
The department provides contribution to the DLR guiding concepts “Unmanned Freight Transport” and “Efficient Air Transport” with contributions to respective research projects.