Plane planner

Air passengers could enjoy more timely landings through a new planning system developed by researchers at Strathclyde University.

Air passengers could enjoy more timely landings through a new planning programme developed by researchers at Strathclyde University.

The programme could also benefit the environment by reducing fuel usage and enabling airports to make the best use of their existing capacity.

The programme works by gathering data on flights, including estimated times of arrival (ETAs), weather conditions and fuel consumption to allow more efficient planning of landing times so that runways can be cleared between landings and ground staff, such as baggage handlers, can be on standby.

Dr Andrew Coles, a research fellow in Strathclyde’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences (CIS) who led the research, said: ‘Co-ordinating the landing of aircraft at a busy airport means managing the contention for runway use and keeping the aircraft as close to their landing time as possible.’

This is becoming more of a challenge due to the increase in the number of flights and use of bigger aircraft. Efficient scheduling is vital to make best use of airport capacity and keep landings close to the times when ground support staff expect them.

‘Keeping landings as close to their scheduled slot as possible also helps to reduce the number of late landings. This reduces fuel usage, as aircraft waiting to land burn up more fuel while they’re in stacking,’ said Dr Cole.

The new system helps to achieve these goals by directing when each aircraft should land and ensuring enough time is left between landings. It can also help to clear backlogs if bad weather means no aircraft can land for some time.

The system has been developed by the Strathclyde Planning Group within CIS and is based on arrivals data from various UK airports. It uses a formula that strikes a balance between the fuel saved by early landings and the disruption to ground support caused by landings that are either ahead of or behind schedule.

Dr Coles’ work is funded by the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance, and the aircraft landing project by Dr Coles’ team is part of a larger project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.