Gaël Le Bris: Since the Second World War and the boom of air transportation, jet aircraft have been getting increasingly larger and wider. The real change of the past two decades, however, has been that manufacturers have acknowledged aircraft could not grow any further without causing significant incompatibility issues with the airports they intend to serve. For instance, the Boeing 777-9 will feature folding wingtips to keep the wingspan within the range of the ICAO Letter of Code E (below 65m) when the aircraft is on the ground.
Most of the existing parking stands for large aircraft were designed for the Boeing 747-400 or the Airbus A340-600. The larger aircraft, such as the Airbus A380-800 and the Boeing 747-8, feature a wider wingspan (beyond 65m). The Boeing 777-9 - which should perform its maiden flight next year - will be the longest airliner ever. Accommodating these aircraft at the gate, docking jetbridges and fuelling the aircraft can be challenging. On the manoeuvring side, longer aircraft require larger taxiway fillets. Higher pavement stress can also be a concern.
AviPLAN is an add-on to the most popular CAD software used in airport planning and design. It is the next generation of aircraft manoeuvring and simulation solutions, replacing PathPlanner and AeroTurn.
AviPLAN offers a wide range of possibilities, from designing taxiway fillets to establishing the feasibility of docking certain aircraft types at a specific gate. Most of the geometric ground issues in aircraft/airport compatibility can be directly addressed with the software and the expertise of the airport engineer.
AviPLAN has a specific aircraft stand-design tool. Stand features such as lead-in lines, passenger boarding bridges, fuel pits and other services can be modelled. Add a large set of aircraft types to the model and you now have a complex, three-dimensional problem to solve. The software can be used for finding the optimum location for a new project or accommodating larger aircraft.
The topography of the field is important, too. The latest version can work with real terrain mesh from a survey. This is a considerable advance in modelling the topography of the field, which is important for evaluating the feasibility of docking jetbridges to aircraft doors in a tight environment.
Aircraft manufacturers usually provide jet blast contours for three levels of thrust in their manuals: idle, breakaway and maxi take-off. AviPLAN can draw these contours as long as the designer drives the aircraft along the right path on the CAD drawing of the airport, revealing the exposure of the airside.
However, these contours are given for ideal, theoretical conditions. The definitions on behind-jet-blast generation are not well known within the aviation community. Finally, there are very few standards. Our research project with The French-Speaking Airports (Les Aéroports Francophones) aims to produce the first-ever practice-ready guidance.
For airport designers, engineers and planners, software like AviPLAN is a true 'Swiss army knife' to solve complex geometrical problems. It is useful for addressing threedimensional problems such as the compatibility between the aircraft and the gate with all its ground services.
AviPLAN also helps airport professionals to save time and increase the reliability of their studies. But if we talk about 'computer-aided design', it is because the software is there to help the experts, not replace them. Experience is required for interpreting the results in order to produce high-value planning and engineering studies.