Analysis of the European air route network: properties, evolution and resilience

Esteve, Pau (Advisors: Massimiliano Zanin & Jose J. Ramasco)
Master Thesis (2022)

Air transport constitutes a key socio-technical infrastructure of modern society with worldwide
economic and environmental implications. Motivated by the success of applying a complex network
approach to many real-world systems, several studies have analysed the structure and dynamics
of air transport systems under this paradigm. In most models, nodes represent airports and a
link is added between two nodes whenever a flight exists between both airports, constituting the
so-called airport networks. Nevertheless, aircraft usually cannot fly using the most direct route,
but are instead confined to flying along airways or pre-defined routes, which simplifies the task of
maintaining safe separation between them. While these air routes constitute the backbone of air
transport with a clear network structure, they have seldom been analysed from a complex network

First, the aim of this project is to analyse the evolution of the topology of these air route networks,
using a real data set covering the European airspace from 2015 to 2018. In particular, we perform
both a descriptive analysis of the time evolution of certain metrics as well as an inference study on
the possible reasons behind the creation/deletion of some airways.
Second, this work includes an analysis of the resilience and vulnerability of such networks by
analysing disturbances that affect single links and entire geographic areas. The former gives us
some insight into the consequences of closing or partially modifying a certain air route. The latter is
analysed by de-activating all the links that fall in a certain region that may be affected by extreme
weather or other circumstances.

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