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Beyond the Gantt Chart – New Developments

While the Gantt chart has provided a useful tool for decades, rapid improvements in digitisation and data analytics are underpinning moves toward a different and perhaps more valuable platform to perform operations management.2 This is a most welcome development and is actively under consideration at airline level. Criticisms of the Gantt chart have included a number of inefficiencies, lack of properly integrative data, high levels of manual interpretation and application, and a reliance on obsolete or segregated technologies. From the detailed sections written above, readers should be well aware of the importance, significance and considerable detail contained within the more sophisticated examples of Gantt charts in use in IOCs, at least in historical terms. Whichever directions developing technologies take future platforms and tools for application within the IOC, key aims are still to inform human decision makers with the optimal information at crucial times to enable the most appropriate decisions. Whether airlines persist with the Gantt chart as the primary tool for economic reasons, system integration or simply human preference, or transpose to alternative platforms remains to be seen, but the expertise that resides in the IOC is still fundamental in the decision-making process.

Software Relating to Other Functional Areas Within the Ioc

As much as the Gantt chart provides the predominant tool for managing the schedules on an operating day, a suite of other products serves to facilitate other functions within the IOC. This software is specialised, applying to the key areas of Crewing, Maintenance, and perhaps Flow Control. In some airlines, the Operations Controllers may have sets of unique information to complement the displays on the Gantt chart, thus providing all the information (albeit separate) in one convenient location. Of course, specific and detailed information is forthcoming from other function teams, but with one quick glance, a summary position is achievable although with varying degrees of integration.

Complementary Tools

In addition to the tools mentioned above, the IOC may make use of several other tools available for monitoring aircraft movements or status, from the simplest such as a display of a series of clocks in the IOC signifying current times at operating ports all over the network, or TV screens monitoring current affairs or world events raising awareness, for example, of political hotspots or other events with potential to disrupt operations. Besides direct radio or satellite-phone communications with aircraft, IOCs may also be able to monitor АТС frequencies to provide them with accurate information with respect to aircraft positions, especially those holding inbound or even on the ground, and calculating landing times.

Many ports incorporate cameras on the apron, or other movement areas to facilitate shared vision of aircraft arrival, handling and departure activity. In some cases, airports mount cameras along runways, or at runway thresholds. This provides a number of stakeholders including airline IOCs with an ability to discern aircraft ground traffic issues such as congestion or blocked taxiways. Another advantage may be to provide an enhanced meteorological observation, particularly when minimal weather conditions such as fogs are likely to affect take-offs and/or landings. Frontline staff now use hand-held digital devices to conduct much of their work, especially when ‘out of office’ on the ramp such that instant two-way communication and data transfer becomes available. Other commercially available tools exist for monitoring operating flights around the world. Again, IOCs in real-time are able to observe disruptions with the potential to impact upon their operations, such as aircraft in extensive holding patterns, or in the process of being rerouted, or diverting. This information can generally be filtered to limit the data to specific operators and fleet types.

Network status – OTP

Several airlines have a number of current-state performance displays located within the IOC. These typically contain summary information about the status of the operating day across their network or, if needed, at key airports - especially the airline’s critical hubs. Using a ‘dashboard’ symbolism incorporating a series of colour coded ‘tachometerlike’ indicators (e.g., with green for on-time, orange for probable delays, and so forth, with accompanying percentage figures), performance of movements can be readily identified. Thus, a glance at the dashboard can very quickly render considerable information about an airline’s on-time performance, and in particular specific arrival and departure performance at a port or ports, any ground-holding times, dispatch reliability, and current or historic diversions and cancellations. In addition, contemporary systems can often break the data further into more meaningful information for IOC management, by separating the metrics into, for example, international, domestic or subsidiary operations.

Weather status – current or developing

Several weather events have the potential to affect operations, including current or developing weather systems (such as typhoons/hurricanes/ cyclones, tornados, volcanic ash clouds, frontal and tropical thunderstorm activity, and areas of turbulence and icing conditions). To monitor such events, weather displays covering parts of a country, focused in a particular region, or on affected airports can provide significant information. For example, a weather watch may be in progress, monitoring the development and track of an approaching hurricane; hence the importance of housing a qualified Meteorologist within the IOC (see Chapter 2). As part of a daily (or more frequent) briefing process, the IOC will consider this information several days ahead of likely disruptions as a means of assessing potential impact on the schedules. In the case of a significant event such as flooding, wild (or bush) fires, an approaching major winter storm, volcanic disturbance or other, action can then be taken to remove flights, and perhaps position aircraft, crews and ground staff likely to be affected. In severe cases, the assessment might also provide for relocating the IOC function itself together with its staff, to a back-up site. Hence, system redundancy is an important design aspect of IOC management.

Maintenance status

A summary of current maintenance unserviceabilities or restrictions placed on aircraft may be displayed on a maintenance status board. For example, there might be a listing of the maintenance equipment available and serviceable at airports. Should the sole GPU not be serviceable at a particular port, only aircraft with serviceable APUs should operate to that port. Maintenance items pertaining to aircraft also will be indicated, especially if they affect the planned operation of specific aircraft during the day or forthcoming period. There may be a request or requirement for a specific aircraft registration to operate into an overnight base for some repair or servicing work. An aircraft unserviceability covered by an MEL, or a configuration deviation (covered by a CDL) may restrict the performance of the aircraft, perhaps limiting its speed or cruising altitude or limiting the routes and/or airports to which it may operate. Some of these items will be denoted on the Gantt chart but the advantage of the status board is its capability as a quick reference resource.

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