Evolution of Performance Measurement – New Era of Aircraft Ground Time Reliability

by Katharina Hördemann

Aircraft turnarounds can be compared to Formula One pit stops. Within a short period of time, various ground handling activities need to take place in order for an aircraft to takeoff on time. Keeping an eye on these highly dynamic ground handling operations is not an easy task. Software solutions help tower agents oversee all relevant data to monitor the status of key requirements, such as the ready status of the aircraft, pilots, flight attendants, passengers and baggage. This allows them to quickly identify potential impacts to the aircraft turn.

Every minute an aircraft is on the ground decreases the aircraft utilization rate and automatically reduces an airline’s revenue. Therefore, the aircraft’s ground time needs to be minimized. Turnaround software solutions can help improve ground handling operations, but the success of such a system will depend on the data that is retrieved from all involved parties such as airlines, Air Traffic Control (ATC), airport and service providers. High quality software-based suggestions for smoothly running ground handling activities is completely dependent on up-to-date and complete data.

However, not all stakeholders along the critical path may be linked to such a software interface. There may be vendors who use pen and paper for dispatching their staff, which in turn leads to limited real-time information on the status of their ground handling operations. This information gap between the time on- and off-block represents a risky “black box”, especially, when it comes to the question of who is responsible for a delay and who is the one to be penalized. Delay codes are used for failure identification, but with various parties along the critical path, they are simply too general and not always cause-related.

Even though airlines are aware of the direct impact that irregularities within ground handling operations have on their success, for many of them, it is still quite unusual to actively monitor the performance of their service providers. As a result, these airlines are standing to miss out on potential cost savings. Furthermore, potential delays negatively impact their overall on-time performance and can damage their customer satisfaction. An intelligent GSE Management software can be the solution.

Such a solution provides all relevant real-time information on position and operational status of each resource. Resources such as GSE can be equipped with On-Board Units (OBU) that transmit telemetric information to the system. This telemetric information contains turn time metric timestamps, which can be tracked automatically and indicate the exact step during a task. Consequently, tower agents are aware of the current position of a GSE as well as the status of its task at any time. All occurring incidents can be visualized with an intuitive color scheme (green, yellow, red), thus enhancing operational awareness and visibility for flights with irregularities. This process transparency results in higher Service Level Agreement (SLA) compliance, as it is easier to retrace each step during the aircraft’s ground time.

Besides GSE movement tracking, mobile communication is an essential add-on, which contains a staff dispatch graphical user interface (GUI) and a mobile app for the operating staff. The GUI enables vendor dispatchers to oversee upcoming tasks and assign staff to service a flight. The operating staff, in turn, is equipped with a mobile app that shows them all relevant service information to the flight they have been assigned to, such as flight details, alerts and notifications. As time-critical operations may be disrupted, the employee has the chance to add multiple flight-related occurrences. These can be selected from pre-configured templates or entered as a free form text. The system even receives a table of all open Minimum Equipment Lists (MELs) and creates a warning if the MEL number changes.

So, the combination of an intelligent Turnaround and GSE Management Solution is the key to success. On the one hand, all turnaround-relevant activities from arrival to departure are displayed, bottlenecks are highlighted and occurrences are recorded with detailed information such as the creator, the timestamp, content and the update history of an incident. On the other hand, all activities and involved resources along the critical path are visualized and color-coded, thus enabling tower agents to oversee the whole ground handling operation in real time and proactively interfere in critical cases. With the help of configurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), success and failure rates of the operation can be shown. Actual data as well as past figures and future prognoses are displayed in custom dashboards, which enable the user to quickly see if operations are improving or not.

As the aviation business is a fast growing and highly competitive industry, managing performance within turnarounds is crucial for the success of airline operations. For this very reason, it is even more important that airlines work proactively on the improvement of their punctuality, which in turn would not only lead to satisfied passengers, but directly result in transparent, optimized processes and cost savings per minute.

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About the author

  • Katharina Schemoschek

    Katharina Schemoschek is passionate about all areas of workforce management and cultivates mutually beneficial relationships with customers.

    She joined INFORM's Aviation Division in 2015 as Marketing Manager. Since November 2017 she has moved to the Workforce Management Division as Business Development Manager.

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