Helsinki Introduces A-CDM

Helsinki-Vantaa Airport has become only the seventh European facility to introduce an Airport Collaborative Decision Making programme. Tom Allett reports.
The dream of having the widespread use of Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) processes to enhance airport and airline operations is more than a decade old.  I’m sure that everyone involved in the Europe-wide project would say that the programme has evolved much more slowly than was originally envisaged, nevertheless, progress is still being made and Helsinki has become the seventh overall, and the first in northern Europe, to adopt A-CDM procedures.
Airport CDM involves the partners – airport operators, ground handlers, ATC and the Network Operators (the Central Flow Management Unit in Brussels) – sharing their data more efficiently in order to streamline work on the ground and in the air.
Aircraft turnarounds and the pre-departure sequencing processes are the primary focus of the programme with the delivery of more accurate Target Take-off Times (TTOTs) the ultimate goal.  These in turn lead to more accurate en-route and sector planning throughout Europe’s air traffic management system, run by Eurocontrol, which ultimately reduces aircraft fuel burn and associated carbon emissions.  The benefits will obviously grow in-line with the number of airports that adopt A-CDM.
First in Northern Europe
Finavia introduced its A-CDM procedures on October 2 – following Munich, Brussels, Frankfurt, Paris CDG, Amsterdam and London Heathrow in adopting the process.
Timo Surto, Helsinki’s A-CDM Project Manager, who is also a serving air traffic controller, has been involved in its planning from the start.
He told Airports International: “Finavia first got involved in an A-CDM pilot project in 2002.  We worked together with Stockholm-Arlanda Airport and Eurocontrol throughout a two-year period.
“Over the following four years Eurocontrol further developed the concept then, in 2008, Helsinki became directly involved again.”  Four years later Mr Surto says it is a relief to see the project come to fruition after all the work by so many people over the years.
Our conversation took place less than a month after Helsinki started its A-CDM operations.  Mr Surto explained how it was working: “Increased predictability allows various operators to plan their tasks better, which improves efficiency and brings savings.  The combined effort of numerous players is needed to ensure smooth and efficient transit through the airport and the better the coordination between the operators, the higher the quality and efficiency of the airport’s services.”
Although, from the travellers’ point of view, the A-CDM work goes on behind the scenes, Finavia hopes passengers will notice the benefits of the new procedures through shorter taxi times after their aircraft has pushed back.  Under the previous system – used by all non A-CDM airports – aircraft may have had to wait in a queue on the taxiway for departure.  Now A-CDM allows them to wait at the gate with their engines off.  After receiving clearance, the pilots will start their aircraft’s engines, taxi to the runway and take off.  If everything goes to plan, the system will not add to passenger delays or costs.
“So far, things are working pretty well and the expectations of all partners have been exceeded,” said Mr Surto.  However, he acknowledged there are still ‘hurdles to jump’: “Helsinki won’t be fully integrated into Eurocontrol’s Network Management System until November 28, 2012, and, after that, [with Helsinki being so much further north than the other A-CDM airports] there is the question of how A-CDM processes will cope with the winter weather.”
He added:  “The project didn’t generate any direct costs to the external stakeholders, except staff working hours on this project.”
Finavia invested in a CDM information sharing platform and covered the costs incurred by the airport operations and the air navigation services.
Helsinki will be the only Finnish airport to adopt A-CDM in the foreseeable future as Eurocontrol’s detailed studies have determined only those airports with over 50,000 movements a year would benefit from this type of operation.
Mr Surto concluded by saying Finavia believes that average engine idling times can be reduced by up to three minutes per aircraft during peak times, which equates to an annual reduction of about 5,100 tonnes of CO2 emissions.  Further benefits, he added, will be gained when mature A-CDM practices can streamline centralised aircraft de-icing and anti-icing operations.