The feasibility of maintaining regional airline access to congested European airports
At present runway congestion in the airline industry has reached a dangerously high level. The effects of this are very costly to all parties involved; US$5bn per year in Europe in 1989 alone. The problem demands urgent attention to accommodate the expected average growth in air transport of 6% per annum. up to the year 2000. It is becoming more and more obvious, however, that the construction of new runways is not a feasible option due to both political, environmental and physical space limitations within Europe. Alternative solutions are therefore required. In 1991 the European Regional Airlines Association, (ERA), produced a document entitled, 'The Vital Link', which outlined a number of ways in which regional aircraft could use their performance differences from the larger jet aircraft to help generate extra runway capacity from existing runways. Whilst the author was a member of the ERA operations committee he developed some of these ideas further. It is the objective of this thesis to examine the ideas developed by the author from both a theoretical and practical point of view to determine the feasibility of implementing them at congested European airports. Theoretical simulation modelling of Manchester, Zurich and Gatwick airports was undertaken using the FAA SIMMOD airport and airspace simulation model. This produced delay time savings and changes to peak hour movement rates which were used in a cost benefit analysis model to see whether or not the procedure would make a cost saving. The practical side of the thesis focused on an industry questionnaire to regional airlines, major airlines and airports to obtain their views on the new procedures and case studies of the procedures at Manchester and Gatwick airports. Results of the work show that whilst the procedures can effectively reduce operating delays they have a lessor impact on peak hour movement rates. Optimum use of the procedures is unique to individual airports and depends on the runway operation mode, TMA airspace configuration and the type and variability of the traffic mix. Actual application of the procedures will be dependant on political and environmental restrictions and likely future changes in regional airlines aircraft fleets.