An heuristic approach for the improvement of aircraft departure scheduling at airports
This work considers the management in the short run of aircraft departures from their parking stands at major airports where traffic congestion is noticeable. At the ground level, congestion is patent when carefully designed departure time tables become unworkable, causing ever increasing delays which penalize heavily passengers, airlines and the airport surrounding community. The study is composed of two parts: First an overall analysis of the considered problem is performed to provide background knowledge and to display basic principles for the management of aircraft ground movements at modem airports. Physical components as well as current operational rules are discussed and their interdependence is revealed. A particular importance is given to new and foreseeable developments in communication and guidance technology which allow an improved prediction of runway occupancy times or gaps. Capacity issues are also discussed with respect to aircraft ground activities and the airfield capacity is analysed. This first part of the work ends with the description of levels of fuel consumption and of pollution emission by aircraft ground operations and thus shows the relevance of the problem considered in this study. The second part of this work is devoted to the design of a just-in-time clearance policy which should minimise environment, fuel and pollution levels and made possible a delay-free ground traffic for departing aircraft A mathematical formulation of the considered decision problem, characterized as a real time scheduling problem, is built up. Then possible solution strategies are appraised and an "ad hoc" heuristic solution algorithm is designed. This solution is first compared in theoretical terms with a First Come First Served policy showing that in an error-free situation the proposed solution cannot be worse than its competitor. Then a simulation study is performed which confirms in practical terms the above result The influence of the main design parameters of the solution algorithm on its performance are also examined giving some insights in relation to necessary communication and prediction aids. Finally, possible extensions of the proposed method and its integration in a global aircraft traffic management system are discussed.