A-CDM: Airport Collaborative Decision Making

A-CDM stands for Airport Collaborative Decision Making and is, in contrast to most other projects or initiatives, about more than just one airport company (airport operator, air traffic control, airline, ground handler, any other stakeholder in the turnaround process) improving its own performance. It is all about creating a culture for all stakeholders working together in a very constructive way, sharing information and making decisions together with the goal of improving the airport system’s overall performance, away from every company’s individual silo thinking that may benefit one’s performance while harming all others.

Photo source: Philipp Müller

A-CDM itself is not a unique software application. It is rather a way of working and collaborating among airport partners, with the help of some technical tools for sharing and consuming relevant information, then allowing to make relevant decisions together.

The following examples help you to illustrate why sharing certain key information benefits the whole system:

  • Airlines know better about the most accurate time of arrival than airports and ground handlers which obtain this information only once the airplane enters the FIR (Flight Information Region) boundary.
  • A ground handler, in most situations, knows best when the plane will be ready to ask for departure clearance. Pro-actively sharing this information with others, and adjust it if needed, allows to better sequence the aircraft.
  • If – for whatever reason – any provider during a turnaround process will not be ready on time, but informs all others ahead of departure time, all others will not have to put all their resources into that specific flight to make it happen without delay, as it will not make it on time anyway. They then may allocate their resources elsewhere. Better having one coordinated delay than 10 uncoordinated ones.

Many large airports had to fight with congestion problems, at least before the outbreak of Covid-19. This now has changed but the problems will be back in a couple of years. At some airports, congestion problems only occurred during certain peak hours a couple of times a day, at other airports it was much worse. Naturally, such problems normally get worse during the course of the day as irregularities accumulate and have a direct impact on future operations (e.g. a plane leaving late may come back late as well, resulting in another delay of the next outbound flight).

Sharing operational key information with airport partners, as soon as known or updated, helps all to prioritize and optimize operations. In the best case, problems may even be avoided by finding a solution all together early enough.

The concept of A-CDM consists of the following elements:

  1. Sharing of Information: the exchange of information is the basis of A-CDM and allows all stakeholders to have the same information at any given time.
  2. Milestones Approach: during aircraft turnarounds, defined process milestones allow to compare the current status with the planned one. This creates situational awareness and shows any deviation relatively early.
  3. Variable Taxi Time: the calculation of taxi in and taxi out times results in the provision of more accurate in-block and off-block times.
  4. Collaborative Management of Flight Updates: this is all about the interaction between an airline’s network management and an A-CDM airport and consists of exchanging Flight Update Messages (FUM) and Departure Planning Information (DPI). It mainly helps the collaboration between operations at an airport, Air Traffic Flow and Capacity Management. Precise variable taxi times are a pre-requisite.
  5. Collaborative Pre-Departure Sequence: the planning of a smooth and efficient off-block order, in consideration of all available information and the goal to increase departure punctuality, meeting slot requirements and allowing flexibility to express preferences.
  6. CDM in Adverse Conditions: applicable due to a planned or unplanned capacity change (e.g. due to weather), creating the same situational awareness to all stakeholders, with the goal to minimize the impact and plan a coordinated recovery.

The popularity and need of A-CDM has by far not reached its limit. Implementation continues around the world. While A-CDM mainly focusses at one specific airport, the need to have such a way of working among several airports within the same country or continent – or even worldwide – is rising with increased demand in air travel.


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