Aircraft deicing plays a significant role in airport winter operations and accounts for many delays during cold months. Given that it extends the ground handling time by 15 minutes on average, it is particularly important that resources are planned efficiently. INFORM has successfully completed several projects in this area by providing IT support for better planning and monitoring of deicing resources. One of these projects was the optimization of WISAG’s deicing operations. Based on the implementation of INFORM’s IT solution, WISAG benefits from an optimized deicing schedule with improved travel and aircraft waiting times, leading to faster turnaround times and minimized delays.
For airport operations, the efficient deployment of resources as well as the balancing of aircraft push-back and the start of deicing is crucial for avoiding delays and lines on the tarmac. The aim is to efficiently schedule the deicing vehicles by using an optimized deicing schedule rather than simple scheduling rules, e.g. the First Come First Serve (FCFS) strategy. In an FCFS strategy, the sequence of deicing is determined by the time of request. Therefore, a truck that becomes available moves on to the next aircraft in line, disregarding the individual slots and priority of flights. Compared to such simple scheduling rules, a Swedish study concludes that an optimized deicing schedule can handle higher traffic volumes with an available fleet without compromising the service level. When the optimized scheduling strategy is applied within a simulation framework that accounts for stochastic disturbances and interactions with other logistics flows, a reduction in aircraft waiting times of over 40%, or more than 9,5 hours, is obtained. Additionally, in a static scenario, the travel time of the optimized schedule is reduced by 36%, or more than 10 hours.
In 2013, INFORM joined forces with WISAG to implement a system for real-time planning and monitoring of their deicing resources. WISAG Aviation Services Holding is known as a leading specialist in airport services with its core business in ground handling. They offer deicing services at both Berlin Airports, where they are integrated into the airport’s collaborative decision making (A-CDM) process (in SXF). This gives WISAG access to real-time information regarding arrival and departure times as well as weather conditions. Thanks to INFORM’s IT support, WISAG can use this information to predict the number of scheduled departures likely to require deicing. In predictive mode, deicing tasks can be generated even before the actual request takes place. As a result, WISAG receives a detailed preview of the required staffing level over the day. When aircraft are being deiced on stand, WISAG further benefits from an optimal strategy to send their vehicles from one stand to another, reducing the travel time of their vehicles, increasing their productivity and ultimately reducing the delays experienced by their airline customers.
Kai Swiney, Application Manager at WISAG, has been working with INFORM’s IT solution for many years now and is convinced that “due to the increasing dissemination of CDM procedures at airports, the benefits of a fully digital IT solution are tremendous.” Especially at larger airports, the automatic determination of deicing start times, location and duration is crucial for maintaining the flight schedule. The benefits become even clearer when taking a closer look at WISAG’s work situation before the system was implemented: “We had trouble handling deicing peaks in an efficient manner. During periods of heavy winter weather, when each aircraft had to be deiced before take-off, it was hardly possible to determine deicing start times and prioritize flights accordingly, resulting in long waiting times, delays and cancellations. If aircraft were deiced on stand, the balancing of deicing end times and aircraft push-back was another challenge. For instance, we had push-back trucks sitting in front of aircraft that hadn’t been deiced yet, while other aircraft were ready and waiting for push-back. When taking into account the individual slots and hold-over times, such situations can become extremely critical.”
Fortunately, much has changed over the past several years. Today, WISAG can rely on various technical features which help them stay ahead of winter weather. These include:
- Overview of all deicing activities for the day, considering the priority of flights
- Optimal creation of deicing tasks according to constantly changing flight schedules
- Efficient deployment of resources while guaranteeing that contractual commitments are met
- Early identification of bottlenecks, including the initiation of countermeasures
- Optimal planning of deicing area allocation
- Optimal creation of tank jobs, based on the current liquid levels
- Coordinated dispatch of deicing and push-back
- Recording of all relevant process steps for evaluation, billing, controlling and complaint management
Also, WISAG runs a fleet of Vestergaard deicing vehicles with on-board systems that record, document and process detailed information on the performed deicing activities and on the vehicle status. The integration of this information in INFORM’s IT solution enables better fluids management, vehicle position tracking through GPS as well as the display and tracking of job start times and job status.
“A digital solution, its optimization capabilities and the convergence of key factors from different data sources enables the real-time control of all typical work processes of deicing as well as an optimized schedule for both staff and vehicles”, Mr. Swiney adds. “Especially the planning, visualization and the correction of deicing sequences is a substantial advantage over the FCFS strategy. Before the system was implemented, it was hardly possible to consider the priority of flights or deal with sudden changes in weather. Today, the system determines and continuously updates the deicing tasks and integrates them into the overall picture. This way, the best deicing solution is guaranteed at any time.”
In view of the high investments required for deicing vehicles, investing in intelligent IT solutions which help to make the best use of these vehicles will quickly pay off. In addition, as movements at airports worldwide increase, investing in one’s efficiency is the best way to grow one’s business.