At the Heart of Things

According to its latest statistics, Bengaluru’s on-time efficiency is at an all-time high. The Universal Flight Information System (UFIS) is operating at many airports worldwide, including Athens International Airport, Greece; Lisbon International Airport, Portugal; Changi Airport, Singapore; Dubai Airport, UAE; and Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand.

Judith Lynn Maxwell from UFIS Airport Solutions describes how Bengaluru placed its operations centre at the heart of its overall design.

According to its latest statistics, Bengaluru’s on-time efficiency is at an all-time high. The Universal Flight Information System (UFIS) is operating at many airports worldwide, including Athens International Airport, Greece; Lisbon International Airport, Portugal; Changi Airport, Singapore; Dubai Airport, UAE; and Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand.

Building a new airport on a greenfield site allows Bengaluru to implement new features that provide it with greater efficiencies.  Based on the recommendation of UFIS Airport Solutions (UFIS-AS), Bengaluru International Airport (BLR) – owned and operated by Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) − implemented an airport operational control centre (AOCC) as part of its building design.  It then took another step forward by providing space for its ground handling agents to work within the AOCC as well.  The result is that all the key players involved in providing efficient airport activities and on-time departures are located in one place.
Designed from the outset to be Bengaluru’s central operation data and information hub, the AOCC forms the heart of the airport’s day-to-day life, supporting its information systems and dictating overall control of its day-to-day activities.  In order to meet the requirements of the stakeholders and deliver the expected services, all operational information and communications necessary for the safe and efficient day-to-day management of the airport must be available within the AOCC.
This is where UFIS-AS plays its role.  Our Universal Flight Information System (UFIS) product is a sophisticated traffic and resource planning and management system for airports, airlines, and handling agents.  It provides the core for an integrated information base, enabling the coordination of the many diverse processes executed by the different stakeholders in the AOCC and across the airport.
The UFIS Airport Operational Database (AODB) is the core of this system, providing a state-of-the-art, fully scalable solution, combining the highest level of security with real-time performance.  Its most important function is to provide a data integration platform for all the airport’s IT systems, including those located off-site.  Information from UFIS and other sources is stored in the AODB and is made available to authorized users and applications.  At BLR, the AODB interfaces with five external systems.  Three of these − The SITA Telex System, Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunication Network, and Air Traffic Control − send updates into the AODB, providing the latest information on flights.  Two systems − Sky Billing and WorkBridge − receive flight schedules and resource usage information from the AODB.  A master clock interface makes sure that all systems are synchronized.
The AOCC at Bengaluru International Airport has both operations personnel and ground handlers in one room. (All images − BIAL)

With the exception of the last function, the UFIS integrated system provides modules designed to help AOCC specialists to do these jobs effectively and efficiently.  Our Flight Information Processing System (FIPS) supports airport operations by enabling the user to manage their flight schedules and to process incoming flight information changes in a real-time setting.  As a part of the FIPS module, telex processing also allows for the interpretation of incoming telexes, updating the appropriate data in the AODB and making it accessible to the users.
The main FIPS screen displays flight-related information using a colour-coded Gantt chart in which the ground times are represented by a horizontal bar.  Each bar contains specific flight information including the flight’s arrival and departure times indicated by the bar’s horizontal position and length and the type of flight by its colour.  Colours in the flags in the corners of the bars indicate the flight status.
Comprehensive conflict message handling is another feature of FIPS enabling accurate and immediate, decisive action.  Bars are marked red when a conflict occurs, allowing the operators to immediately recognize a problem with a flight.
The apron management application is a rule-based system that enables planners and dispatchers to produce an up-to-the-minute plan for gate, parking stand, check-in counter and baggage belt assignment to individual aircraft.  An easy-to-use rule generator is provided for the operators to develop new rules or edit existing ones to cater for changes in operational procedures, safety measures, and agreements with the airlines.
Our Flight Information Display System (FIDS) ensures that all relevant information is displayed at the right time in the right place.  Flight, delay or boarding information, plus gate or baggage belt assignments, can be processed automatically.  Other updates require only minimal manual entries.  It is a scalable, state-of-the art system including multi-lingual display technology enabling information to be displayed at any location.
The AOCC Duty Manager can maintain an overview of all operations using UFIS.

At BLR, flight information is displayed to the public in the concourses, check-in areas, gates, and baggage claim areas on 153 large-screen monitors.  These include 53 public displays, another 53 at the check-in counters, plus 20 more at gates and 17 baggage displays.  Besides the web-based counter application running on the CUTE workstations, a web-based staff information application provides details throughout the whole airport intranet.  This enables staff to call up flight and airport-related information relevant to their particular tasks.
As an additional feature, UFIS-AS, in coordination with Oracle, developed a link to the airport’s web portal.  Before coming to the airport, passengers can check the status of their arriving or departing flight.
While UFIS-AS provides a module for monitoring the facility- and utility-related alarms (its Airport Information Management System Viewer), this module is not in use at BLR.
Ground handlers have access to the same flight information as the operational flight specialists.  The only difference is that the information is filtered for them so that they only have access to information concerning their flights.  This filtering is part of BIAL’s security policy and the security functionality within UFIS helps make this possible.  Ground handlers can easily see when a flight is early, on-time, or delayed and can make adjustments to their staff assignments to ensure efficient operations.  They can also readily see which type of aircraft are being serviced and where these aircraft are located.
Having the ground handlers in the AOCC allows them and the operations team to work effectively and efficiently.  Instead of multiple phone calls to the ground handlers, information can be exchanged in person and changes to allocations can be discussed, if necessary, and notified immediately.  The AOCC at BLR also has a small meeting area if stakeholders need to discuss a situation.
The provision of an AOCC represents a forward-looking approach from the airport, allowing collaboration and maintaining high quality and service level standards across airport stakeholders.  It is designed to avoid multiple data entries and breaks in the information flow while guaranteeing short connection times and achieving maximal customer satisfaction.
These last two benefits can already be seen at BLR.  In the latest statistics provided by the airport, its on-time performance (defined as the industry standard within 15 minutes from scheduled time of departure) is at its all-time high of 85%.  This is up from the 80% performance that the airport was achieving as it opened 18 months ago.  This performance improvement has come despite the 22% increase in traffic over the past year, most of which has occurred in the past six months.  The availability of key resources stands at an average of 99%.
Flight information on public displays, such as this one outside the terminal, is provided by UFIS.

Customer satisfaction is also at a high as revealed by messages ‘tweeted’ to BIAL.  One passenger even hoped for a flight delay because they were enjoying free wireless connection and a massaging chair!
“Bangalore has become one of the premiere airports in India,” said Anders Sagadin, president and CEO of UFIS-AS: “and a showcase for UFIS.  It is exciting to see the challenges that they have undertaken and to be able to assist them in meeting these challenges.  We look forward to additional ways that we can support them in their effort to be a model airport for the Indian continent.”
 
 
The primary functions of an AOCC include:

  • Collecting and processing flight data and related information such as number of passengers, load, and special services required
  • Planning, coordinating, and monitoring the central airport infrastructure resources like aircraft parking stands, gates, check-in counters, and baggage belts.
  • Monitoring and operating the passenger information systems including the passenger address system.
  • Monitoring facility and utility related alarms.
  • Monitoring safety and security systems including CCTV and emergency telephone.