Airports connect everything, and, at the best of them, everything is connected. Weather impacts movement, which impacts maintenance, which impacts operations. Of course, all of those impact development, which impacts cargo and passengers, and that all makes a difference to personnel. It goes back and forth, on and on.

Still, as complex as an airport might get, the Airtopsoft airside aircraft movement simulation tool makes it possible to visualise and communicate all of it, informing everything from next week’s optimal alternate taxi routes to next year’s declaration of capacity and next decade’s terminal expansion plan.

The airside aircraft modelling module supports the rule-based modelling of gate allocation; push and pull procedures; taxi flow control; runway entry, exit, sequencing and crossing; turnaround management; de-icing procedures; and more. Supported through the set-up process by Airtopsoft’s experts, airports that implement it can set it up to trial new operating concepts to better achieve key performance indicators (KPIs) without changing any infrastructure – and model new infrastructure to see if it might fit with their operating concept and KPIs.

London Gatwick is one of more than 100 currently doing so around the world, and senior capacity analyst Johanna Leigh speaks to Future Airport about its experience with the product.

How has AirTOP’s airside aircraft modelling module helped you optimise your operations and maximise your resources?Can you give any examples?

Johanna Leigh: AirTOP’s airside aircraft modelling module has allowed us to simulate the impact of any variations to airfield operations – such as changes in traffic type, construction and disruption – on airfield performance. The results of the simulation allow us to make operational decisions.

Has the simulation tool helped you to plan for the longer term or enabled you to better implement larger changes, and if so, how?

Using the tool we have tested future airfield developments to understand the benefits or drawbacks of those changes. We use the simulation tool to show airfield performance with and without the development, so that the relative impact can be quantified.

The data provided by the simulation reports inform business decisions as to if, how and when developments take place. It also allows us to predict airfield performance levels with future traffic forecasted.

What, for you, is the module’s most impressive functionality? Have any of its capabilities surprised you or added value in areas you weren’t expecting?

The ability to simulate complex airfield operations using rule-based commands, while keeping usability reasonably simple, has proved especially valuable. The capability of editing the simulation through CSV files has also helped with ease of use and transferring information between models.

What was the implementation process like, and how did Transoft/ Airtopsoft work with you to make it as smooth as possible, while ensuring you were able to fully make use of the tool?

A training course was provided on-site to introduce the software and its capabilities. The training was catered to Gatwick, and we even started the process of building our baseline model under the guidance of our trainer.

After that, any issues or questions could be relayed through their support email.

How have the module’s reporting capabilities helped to reinforce you and your staff’s knowledge and understanding of your operations?

There are a wide range of outputs that can be easily accessed. The ease with which reports can be customised and processed was one of the major advantages of this software. We customise reports for each project to measure the relevant KPIs.

The results of the simulation have helped the business understand the effect of planned changes on the overall airfield operation. The visual aspect also supports us in demonstrating impacts.