This case study considers a European, medium sized, single runway airport which handled about 100,000 flights and 3 million passengers in 2019. The airport has 19 contact stands as well as remote handling facilities. The airport is well connected and handles a lot of traffic related to the offshore oil & gas industry.

The airport has a long history of innovation and continuous improvement. In order to maximise capacity, improve on-time-performance (OTP), enhance safety and improve passenger experience, the airport is working on a digital twin project. In May of 2020, the airport approached Assaia as it became apparent that Assaia is the only source for high quality data concerning apron / airside operations. 


 One of the key business drivers for the digital twin initiative is to improve safety on the apron. As a direct result of the COVID crisis many airlines and ground handlers had to lay off staff. As traffic is returning, many companies are having difficulties rehiring staff and find themselves being understaffed and/or lacking experienced staff.

The airport has a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which describes several safety measures which ground handlers have to adhere to. The safety measure on which we will focus in this case study is the post-departure stand check. The goal of this check is to ensure that the stand area is clear of any GSE and/or Foreign Debris Objects (FOD) which could otherwise cause damage to the next aircraft using the same stand. Before the start of the project, we found that this check was not properly carried out for 60% of all departing flights.

FOD damage to aircraft is a major cost of doing business for airlines, costing them globally $4 billion per year. On average, 1 in 1,000 departures incurs ground damage with an average cost of $275,000.

The Setup

From July through September 2020, Assaia worked closely with both the airport and a third- party supplier of a digital twin platform to implement the ApronAI system. The existing camera infrastructure (one camera per stand) was used, which resulted in a fast and cost-efficient implementation.

The ApronAI software was deployed on an on-premise server. An integration with the airport’s Airport Operational Database (AODB) was established and Assaia’s API was connected to the digital twin platform.

Real Time Safety Alerts

During the implementation project, Assaia and the airport worked closely together to define the intended use of the ApronAI system. This kind of close collaboration is key to ensure that the software is properly configured. Even more importantly, the project partners took the time to prepare the organization and users for the change in their way of working once the tool was released.

One of the key use cases for the airport was to receive real-time alerts in case of deviations from standard operating procedures. These kinds of deviations lead to unsafe situations, and, in a worst case scenario, to incidents or accidents. The real-time detection of unsafe situations minimizes the chance of that happening. Thus, the ApronAI serves as a proactive safety management tool.

safety alerts 2.png


The Assaia TurnaroundControl application is used at the Airport Operations Centre (AOC) and is configured to show alerts in case of unsafe situations to the AOC operatives. Example situations include:

  • Stand not clear for incoming aircraft
  • Chocks not applied
  • FOD checks not performed
  • Aircraft walkarounds not performed

Once an alert is raised, the AOC operative calls the ground handler currently on the stand in order to take direct action and mitigate any potential risk. It is good to note that the objective is not to single out individuals’ at-risk behaviour but to create awareness in order to drive change in future behaviour.

The Results

In order to show the positive impact Assaia’s ApronAI system has on the airport’s safety record, we report on the number of occurrences of unsafe situations.

For the period between December 7, 2020 and April 11, 2021, we have observed a very significant decrease in the number of instances when this stand check was not performed (see graph above). The green line shows the percentage of flights for which this check was not performed while the blue line shows the moving average.


safety alerts gr 1.png


We can see that in the first week, the post departure stand check was not observed for nearly 60% of all flights. After deploying the ApronAI, this number trended downward and in the last week of the observation period, this check was not carried out for only 24% of flights. For this specific case, unsafe behaviour decreased by more than 50%.

According to the airport’s Airside Compliance Manager, the results are very exciting.

"Such a significant decrease in unsafe behaviour is very hard to achieve otherwise. Having real-time visibility on compliance has allowed us to directly improve safety. Furthermore, the data has also helped us to find root causes for unsafe behaviour and take action based on these insights."

The Business Case

A 2008 study by Insight SRI for fodnews.com found that on average the cost of FOD damage is as much as $26 per flight. They also report that a FOD incident happens on average 12.8 times per 10,000 aircraft movements. If indeed proper post-departure stand checks can prevent these incidents from happening, the ApronAI enables staff to reduce FOD damages with $13 per flight.

An average airport has about 400,000 aircraft movements per year. These movements would thus include 40 FOD incidents costing a total of $10.4 million per year. By using the ApronAI system to improve the execution of post departure stand checks, for an airport this size, the savings would be $5.2 million per year.

If all airports around the world would have a system like ours in place and would be able to reduce FOD related incidents in the same way, it would save the entire industry more than $500 million every year again.

According to the airport’s Head of Aerodrome Strategy, the collaboration with Assaia is a great success. 


"It has shown us that computer vision technology is a mature and production-ready technology for observing turnaround processes and SOP compliance. But, even more importantly, it has shown us that both real-time and historic data can be used to enhance safety in airside operations and save us millions of euros."

If you are eager to learn more about this particular case study or about different ways in which Assaia’s ApronAI software can create value for your airport or airline contact us at info@assaia.com or via the website form.

Testimonials

The way Turnaround 2.0 uses AI and machine learning to boost our zone controllers' efficiency is remarkable. They can now manage multiple gate activities with more focus on handling exceptions, rather than multitasking. Turnaround 2.0 is more than a tool for the present; it's a foundation for 'United Next,' growing with us and helping us surpass our operational goals efficiently.

Daniel Reed
Director of Station Operations, United Airlines

Our focus is to use innovation to make our operations smoother. We have selected Assaia because of the capabilities of the tool. But it is also really important for us that it has a good record of successful implementation, so we know it will deliver for us, for our airlines and ultimately for our passengers.

Dr Babett Stapel
Managing Director, Fraport Slovenjia

We are optimizing all our processes on the apron to shorten the time each aircraft needs to be on the ground, which benefits both our passengers and our airline partners. This is a common issue across our airports and we are talking to all of them about this technology.

Claus Grunow
VP of Corporate Strategy and Digitalization at Fraport

We are pleased to partner with Assaia to implement the ApronAI Turnaround Control solution at T4. This new solution will not only optimize operations and our work with our business partners, but will also help us to ensure a first-class customer experience at T4.

Roel Huinink
President and CEO, JFKIAT

For most airports, the apron is a a black box. Assaia finally gives our ground staff full insight into every turnaround. This allows them to focus on what really matters, while simultaneously making the work environment safer.

Jason Aspelund
Former Manager Strategic Performance, Alaska Airlines

The real-time and historical insights that can inform both airport and airline operations make this solution a clear winner for everyone.

Craig Paul
Director of Technology & Innovation , Halifax Stanfield International

Assaia's product allows airports and airlines to collect, track, and analyze data in real time; this innovation removes inefficiencies and optimizes performance.

Jim Lockheed
JetBlue Ventures

We’re creating the airport of the future, and innovation in apron operations will directly improve the passenger experience. We are laser focused on innovations that will make Pearson and its whole apron ecosystem more efficient while reducing our carbon footprint.

Deborah Flint
President and CEO GTAA

This data provides the single source of truth covering all turnaround operations. It is, therefore, an integral part of our Airport Collaborative Decision-Making initiative.

Darin Juby
Program Director, Digitalization, GTAA

SEA needed an innovative solution to our capacity problem and have worked with Assaia to optimize the turnaround process resulting in reduced taxi times and increased passenger satisfaction. Assaia has exceeded our expectations, consistently delivering on-time & on-budget.

Samer Tirhi
Airline Scheduling Coordinator, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

With the help of Predicted Off Block Time from Assaia. JFKIAT Operations can be proactive to reduce or eliminate any delays and gate holds

Stephen Tukavkin
VP IT & Digital, JFKIAT

I had mentioned before, great innovation on your part. With these types of improvements, T4 is always leading at JFK. Thank you

COPA Station Manager
JFKIAT

We are proud to be partnering with the Assaia team in our mission to use technology to improve the efficiency and safety of the airport environment.

Raghbir S. Pattar
Director of Airports Transformation, IAG

We’re working hard on becoming an airport of the future, and this involves rethinking every part of our ground operations. Assaia’s ApronAI is an integral component of our vision for the ramp of the future.

Abhi Chacko
Head of Innovation & Commercial IT Services, Gatwick Airport

Assaia’s technology adds critical data points to CVG’s early-stage neural network for operational advancements. Structured data generated by artificial intelligence will provide information to make decisions, optimize airside processes, and improve efficiency and safety.

Brian Cobb
CIO, CVG Airport

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