Assessing airport landing efficiency through large-scale flight data analysis

Zanin, Massimiliano
IEEE Access , (2020)

Trajectories optimisation is a major research topic in air transport and air traffic management, due to its profound impact both on passengers, airlines and the environment in general, and consequently on the perceived value and cost of air transportation. While the challenges associated to the optimisation of the en-route part of a flight are well understood, relative less attention has been devoted to the last part, i.e. the approach and landing. Here we show how open large-scale data sets of aircraft trajectories can be used to characterise the efficiency of flights landing at an airport, measured through the time and distance flown below 10,000 feet. The yielded picture is highly heterogeneous, with the time spent at low altitude varying from an average of 10 minutes for Zurich, up to 16 minutes for London Heathrow. Flights arriving at the same airport also experience highly different times, e.g. from 12 to 20 minutes for London Heathrow, depending on factors like traffic volumes, time of the year and of the day, and on interactions with other traffic patterns and airports. From a more general perspective, this contribution illustrates how the availability of large data sets can be used to improve our understanding of the real behaviour of the system, and especially its deviation from what planned.

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