The onset of winter at the airport – heavy snowfall is forecast, so restricted operations can be expected for several hours. To ensure that the processes continue to run smoothly even during severe weather events in winter, close coordination and cooperation between all key players at the airport are essential. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR) and its partners in the European Total Airport Management (TAM) project have simulated an emergency in order to study new collaborative processes and tools.
"In future, we want to not only respond better to unexpected airport challenges that negatively affect the smooth flow of air traffic, but also to deal with them proactively on a cooperative basis," says Florian Piekert from the DLR Institute of Flight Guidance, explaining the project's objectives. "In this way, we can act in a more flexible manner, make simpler decisions and return flight operations to normal more quickly."
Simulation in the DLR Control Center
One of the project's highlights came at the beginning of 2019, when an extensive test campaign was conducted in the DLR Airport and Control Center Simulator. Representatives from airports, air traffic control services, airlines and ground handling companies took part in several real-time simulations in which events at Oslo Airport were realistically recreated. In the process, a number of new and dedicated planning tools were used collaboratively for the first time and supported the individual parties participating in the cooperation.
As an example of how this could work in practice – as soon as heavy snowfall is forecast, a future airport control centre, the Airport Operations Center (APOC), would receive an appropriate warning. In the APOC, representatives of all parties would sit together in the same area. The APOC supervisor would inform all participants whose work and cooperation are particularly important, such as airlines, air traffic controllers and ground handling companies. Each party would check to see what effects the event will have on their area and then report this back to the APOC. The whole situation would be assessed and a joint solution would be found through a direct exchange of ideas.
"The APOC is the central control room of a larger airport in which all the companies involved jointly determine which strategy should be used to overcome anticipated problem situations," Piekert explains. "The tests provided the guests from Oslo with the opportunity to develop their planned APOC in a much more targeted manner and therefore to be even better prepared for future operational challenges."
The Control Center Simulator and the DLR Institute of Flight Guidance's Airport Management Simulation Platform – which allows the testing of new concepts and systems for airports without disrupting the regular operations of an airport – served as the basis for the test campaign. The new planning tools used in the airport management campaign were developed by the European air traffic controller organisation EUROCONTROL, the companies Leonardo and SINTEF, and the Polish air traffic control organisation PANSA, in collaboration with the University of Warsaw and DLR.
The TAM project will run until the end of 2019. During this time, the solutions will be refined and validated so they can be implemented as soon as possible for the operation of European airports after the project's completion.
This project receives funding from the SESAR Joint Undertaking as part of Horizon 2020, the European Union's framework programme for research and innovation (Grant No. 733121).