Back in 2002 I spent four months working on site with the Airports Unit at Eurocontrol HQ in Brussels, at a time when airport operations were still new to the en-route world of Eurocontrol. I shared an office with two others, and among our favourite topics for debate were the opening hours of the Eurocontrol gym, the betting culture around horse racing – and the development of the brand new A-CDM concept (short for Airport Collaborative Decision Making). I became an early supporter, even if, at the time, discussions were mostly still focused on the 'information sharing' element of the concept.
Fast forward 13 years, to the recent Eurocontrol A-CDM Information Exchange, which I attended for Helios as part of my watching brief on the topic. I'm happy to report that things have moved on over time: from Munich Airport as the first network connected A-CDM airport in 2007, to three A-CDM airports in 2010, eight airports in 2013, and seventeen today (after Prague joined the club a few weeks ago). One of the presenters at the event noted that things move slowly in aviation; I would argue that 17 airports implemented and connected in 15 years is not so bad when considering the number and range of parties involved in each individual case. And now that the momentum is there, it doesn't look like stopping anytime soon, with more and more airports signing up – leading to not only local benefits, but also increasingly to network benefits.
And there is more good news, beyond the simple growth of the number of A-CDM airports. I was pleased to see two very different levels of discussion. On the one hand, there was detailed discussion (who is responsible for providing which time estimate at which point in the process), which is a symptom of a mature concept. On the other hand, it was good to see that the 'airport operator's perspective' (in this case provided by Oslo) highlighted the need to maintain a high level overview and to keep the local implementation and benefits in mind – a message that was later confirmed from the global perspective by Dubai and Singapore. The benefit of A-CDM to the network and the need for harmonisation of procedures were mentioned several times during the two-day event, but in the end, local implementation requires local buy-in, which begins with local benefits addressing local problems.
The event was overwhelmingly positive, but for me one of the most important moments came when IATA highlighted some of the more critical feedback they had received from their member airlines. Back in 2002, a lot of time was spent discussing the ins and outs of the information sharing step: who has the best information and when; how does this 'best placed' stakeholder change over time; and could this evolving situation be used to the benefit of all? Those issues, and many more, have been addressed over the years. But now we have several years of experience working with A-CDM, and as more airports join the club, new issues that we weren't aware of will pop up. We should resist the temptation to fit such issues into existing, but not necessarily suitable, solutions – and instead try to keep an open mind and address them afresh.
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