STTAR: a Simheuristics-enabled Scheme for Multi-stakeholder Coordination of Aircraft Turnaround Operations

Aircraft turnaround operations consist of all services to an aircraft (e.g. passenger boarding/disembarking, re-fuelling, deicing) between its arrival and immediately following departure. The aircraft, parked at its stand, witnesses a number of service providers move around it to perform their duties. Inter-dependencies among service providers abound, and knock-on effects at disrupted times are rife. Coordination from the side of the airport operator is difficult.

The research team proposes a tactical robust scheme whereby ground handlers and the airport operator cooperate, although indirectly, in the development of plans for the next day that are less likely to be impacted by at least the more frequent operational disruptions. The scheme is based on a simheuristic approach which integrates ad-hoc heuristics with a hybrid simulation model (agent-based/discrete-event) built in AnyLogic.

In this article, we are looking at a given airport and at the tactical planning problem whereby all teams of handlers, simply ’teams’, of a given service provider (SP), are assigned to aircraft ground handling tasks for the entire duration of the day of operation. The assignment is made ahead of the day of operation, say in the night-time gap between two consecutive days.

The model seeks a solution to how to improve aircraft turnaround time and develop a plan that minimizes the total delays associated with team-task allocations.

A process is proposed that involves all the service providers working at the given airport and the airport operator (AO) running the same facility. The purpose of this process is to support each SP separately to develop tactical plans for team allocation and assess their robustness. The process is called STTAR, acronym standing for Systematic Turnaround-Team Allocation Routine.

A simplified process map to improve aircraft turnaround time

A simplified process map for STTAR, with tentative example timings.

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