National Academies Press: OpenBook

Simulation Options for Airport Planning (2019)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Simulation Options for Airport Planning. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25573.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Simulation Options for Airport Planning. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25573.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Simulation Options for Airport Planning. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25573.
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3 Global business and tourism depend heavily on the efficient operation of airports and movement of passengers, baggage, and cargo across many areas. With increasing demand and connectivity requirements for airports comes the need for more sophisticated simulation and modeling tools to validate design assumptions. Furthermore, airport design and planning decisions have significant impacts on policy and major capital improvement decisions, which can be supported by simulation and modeling tools at many levels. Background Airports form an integral part of the nation’s transportation system. They represent the connection of multiple transportation modes where passengers transition between ground transportation (e.g., automobiles, trains, and buses), passenger terminals, and aircraft. They are highly complex and dynamic systems that require the use of detailed planning and design processes to ensure efficiency, security, and profitability. An airport is much more than the sum of its parts. Modern airports represent a complex network of interconnected and dependent systems where every subsystem must operate and work together to maximize the efficiency and functionality of the overall airport operation. The airport system is composed of several components—including airspace, airfield, terminal, and curbside operations—all of which require strategic and day-to-day operational planning. In this dynamic environment, design plans and operations constantly evolve. Design decisions impact strategic capital improvements and changes in operational demand also require tactical changes in airport operations planning. Many airports and airport planners around the nation use simulation tools to support near-term tactical decision making as well as strategic planning projects. The toolsets and pro- cesses used to analyze and simulate airport operations have changed significantly since the 1980s, when analysis techniques were limited to general purpose queuing and network analy- sis concepts or purpose-built simulation tools (Gosling, 1988). These tools have become much more sophisticated and accurate in emulating real-world aircraft, passenger, and vehicle dynamics. Current simulation tools can model detailed operational scenarios and conduct analyses of highly complex airport processes, including airspace and airfield operations, terminal passenger traffic, baggage systems, curbside vehicle traffic, and many other subprocesses. Virtu- ally all major airport development efforts today include detailed airport simulation efforts to support airspace procedure designs, master plans, capacity-demand studies, terminal passenger flow plans, curbside capacity studies, and environmental impact assessments, among others. Simulation tool capabilities range from simple stochastic analyses to more detailed queue- ing models to very complex processes and interactions. As simulation tools become more C H A P T E R 1 Introduction

4 Simulation Options for Airport Planning sophisticated and powerful, they are capable of modeling increasingly realistic aircraft, pas- senger, and vehicle operations at highly detailed levels. Current-day simulations are capable of very accurately predicting future operational conditions, and the survey results indicate a strong desire to use simulation tools across a variety of organizations and for a variety of projects. Evolving simulation tool complexity—mainly in terms of functionality, data processing requirements, and results analysis—comes at the price of increased training requirements, resources, and licensing fees. Whether a study is focused on assessing changes in airport infra- structure (runways, taxiways, gates, and terminals), aircraft and passenger traffic patterns, baggage system configurations, or environmental or noise patterns, the choice of simulation tool can have a significant impact on the credibility of the study, as well as on the study budget and schedule. Generally, simulation tools can be categorized by their fidelity and capabilities, as illustrated in Figure 1. For this discussion, the term “fidelity” refers to the faithfulness of the technological and simulation tool behavior in representing real-world processes and objects. A high-fidelity, or microscopic, tool can generally simulate objects and interactions with high detail and preci- sion. A low-fidelity, macroscopic simulation tool, on the other hand, usually uses abstractions and summary data for analyses and predictions. Analyses can range from table lookups to medium-fidelity analytical and mathematical models to very high-fidelity capacity and delay simulation applications. Each of these types of analysis tools serves specific purposes and should be applied to answer specific questions and support airport planning analyses. However, the applicability and usefulness of specific simulation tools may not be widely understood by all airport planners and designers. Many times, simulation tool decisions are made based on resource availability and other factors without an appropriate assessment of needs, data availability, and metric and reporting requirements. Sometimes it may even become necessary to use multiple tools in combination (e.g., terminal passenger models connected to airside aircraft models), so interfaces and data input and output characteristics need to be understood. Several reports and articles describe current practices and case studies of applying simulation tools to assess airport, airfield, and terminal capacity and delays (LeighFisher et al., 2012). Figure 1. Simulation model fidelity.

Introduction 5 However, the number and types of simulation tools available to airport planners can still cause confusion and inappropriate application of a simulation. Study Approach This synthesis report explores the functional and analytical capabilities of simulation tools used by the nation’s airport planners to simulate and analyze airport or airfield, airspace, terminal, and ground-access operations. It focuses not only on simulation software capabilities, but also on the industry application and best practices when using these tools on representative projects. With a focus on how simulation tools are used at medium and large airports, a review of recent literature and project reports forms the baseline of the current environment description. This review is used to provide airport planners with background on individual simulation tools and potential case examples. It is supplemented by an industry survey of airport planners and designers that was used to capture current practice trends and case examples from recent airport planning on representative projects. The survey that was conducted for this report was designed to elicit simulation-specific practices and opinions and was specifically targeted at airport orga- nizations and planners that may currently be using—or have used in the past—simulation tools to support airport planning. The survey results are included in various parts of this report to demonstrate simulation tool usage and provide ideas and relevant information to readers. A complete list of all survey questions can be found in Appendix A. The literature review and survey information collected are used to build a framework for guiding airport planners that are new to simulation tools and their applicability in the most appropriate tool selection based on their environment and project needs. The report proposes simulation tool selection strategies based on significant project and organizational characteristics. Using this strategy as well as case examples, readers can use their own project needs and draw parallels with current industry simulation tool application trends. In addition, more detailed information on simulation tool characteristics and capabilities can serve as further reference for the airport planner in this selection process. In some cases, direct communication with simula- tion tool developers and information from online websites and resources is also used to support documented capabilities and identify capability gaps for specific simulation software tools.

Next: Chapter 2 - Basic Simulation Concepts for Airport Planning and Design »
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Global business and tourism depend heavily on the efficient operation of airports and movement of passengers, baggage, and cargo across many areas. With increasing demand and connectivity requirements for airports comes the need for more sophisticated simulation and modeling tools to validate design assumptions.

Furthermore, airport design and planning decisions have significant impacts on policy and major capital improvement decisions, which can be supported by simulation and modeling tools at many levels.

ACRP Synthesis 98: Simulation Options for Airport Planning is the result of the collection and analysis of information on current industry practices and on applications of simulation tools for airport planning and design. Credible simulation projects can help airport administrators, designers, engineers, and planners estimate the impact of planned changes on passenger traffic, aircraft traffic, roadway traffic, baggage movements, and other subsystems such as bus and train links and aircraft ground support operations.

The toolsets and processes used to analyze and simulate airport operations have changed significantly since the 1980s, when analysis techniques were limited to general purpose queuing and network analysis concepts or purpose-built simulation tools. These tools have become much more sophisticated and accurate in emulating real-world aircraft, passenger, and vehicle dynamics.

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