23 Nov Enhancing ground infrastructure to handle 50,000 more flights


When a busy main-port airport in a busy city in a busy country needs to handle large medium-term growth expectations, how do you make that happen? Major airport expansion isn’t an option, obviously. But there are other ways to grow without getting bigger.

Growth impact

Significant growth puts extensive pressure on airport design in terms of ground operations and infrastructure. Also, planes often arrive too early, putting even more pressure on already overloaded taxiways, holdings and buffer areas, and exacerbating a shortage of gates.

Fixes had to be practical adjustments to the airport design

Tacking on extra runways to increase capacity isn’t a viable solution in densely-populated areas. Besides the issue of investment, obtaining the necessary approvals for airport expansion can be an even bigger problem. And a ‘simpler’ capacity solution of expanding night-time operations is out of the question due to aircraft noise restrictions.

Like most airports in busy areas, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport faces these same issues in planning for medium-term growth. Already a busy airport with over 450,000 air transport movements reported in 2015, an annual capacity of 500,000 is expected to be reached before 2020. How do you process another 50,000 flights within that short timeframe?

Ground scenarios

Finding solutions meant taking a closer look at the impact on the current airport design, specifically the ground infrastructure. To help Schiphol Airport and Netherlands Air Traffic Control understand what that higher capacity scenario might look like, we provided analysis for the Knowledge Development Centre Mainport Schiphol in a study of ground operation performance.

The first phase was to identify and analyse bottlenecks in ground operations and infrastructure. We used fast-time simulations on multiple runway preferences to create a clear picture of weaknesses under heavy traffic.

The second phase was testing possible solution scenarios that would allow Schiphol to manage the increase as safely and efficiently as possible.

Using simulations to validate solutions

We needed to find solutions that didn’t involve airport expansion or night-time operation. Fixes had to be practical adjustments to the airport design.

Fast-time simulation allowed us to estimate the (chances of) delays in phase one, and to quantify the effects of various proposed tweaks to the airport design in phase two.

That information was used to calculate expected returns on investment for different solutions such as reconfigured entries, stand and taxi combinations, remote holdings, extra taxiways and extended piers. These were then used as input for an investment road map to meet growing demand.

The positive results in this case have again proven the usefulness of fast-time simulation in scenario planning for airport design, whether for the timing and location of new runways or terminals, or in determining optimal airfield layouts to meet capacity demands. (Read our blog on fast-time simulation to find out more.)

About To70. To70 is one of the world’s leading aviation consultancies, founded in the Netherlands with offices in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. To70 believes that society’s growing demand for transport and mobility can be met in a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable manner. For more information, please refer to www.to70.com

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Ruud Ummels
Ruud Ummels
Having spent six years in the Asia-Pacific region, working for both airport operators, as well as aviation authorities and air navigation service providers, I have helped deliver significant traffic growth at airports such as Melbourne, Singapore, Dubai, Taipei, Sydney, Guangzhou and Manila. A partner at To70 since 2011, I also contributed in our international expansion by setting up offices in Bangkok, São Paulo, Shanghai and Singapore. In the last two years my focus has shifted back to Europe working on airport and airspace planning and optimisation projects and expanding our business to Belgium, Switzerland and the UK.
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