ASPM’s AERO Report Gives Meaning to Aviation Metrics
Posted April 08, 2014 by Volanno
Aviation System Performance Metrics (ASPM) provides numerous reports and analysis tools for 77 airports. Recently, ASPM was expanded to include an efficiency report for the Air Traffic Office (ATO) called the AERO report. AERO provides an interactive dashboard that Volanno transformed from an idea into reality. The report and its benefits were recently featured on FOCUS FAA, the FAA’s online employee magazine. We are very proud of our role in developing, refining, and executing this report.
AERO Database Gives Meaning to Aviation Metrics
Published in FOCUS FAA
April 9, 2014
Metrics are essential to gauging the efficiency of the national airspace system, but for the ATO to get the most out of the information it collects, the data needs to be presented in a way that makes sense. That’s the thinking behind the ATO Efficiency Report Online.
Known by the shorthand AERO, the database captures an array of statistical information about the daily operations at core airports and displays it in a format that is easy to digest. AERO users can get a quick snapshot of the numbers from the facilities where they work or that they need to follow, or they can dive more deeply into the data to analyze it in detail.
This snapshot of performance metrics from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is taken from the ATO Efficiency Report Online, which is designed to give meaning to metrics. (Image: ATO)
“It gives the metrics meaning,” said Steve McMahon, the manager of system efficiency. “… We take the measures, indicators and higher-level metrics and make them into something that is operationally applicable.”
Bryan Beck, a national traffic management officer who worked on AERO for a year, said the idea for a new way of analyzing metrics sprang from a summer 2012 meeting to review recent numbers. Ron Fincher, then the director of terminal operations for the Western Service Area, noted that presenters at the session were reporting conflicting numbers for the same airports.
“Everybody was giving different reports, and they were all going in different directions. … None of the numbers matched,” Beck said. The briefing participants saw an opportunity to make the reporting more organized and consistent.
Beck, Manager of Tactical Operations Kim Stover and Terminal Strategic Planning and Performance Manager Tom Skiles took the lead in organizing a collaborative team to create one standard report and a database to house the reports. They initially met with a small group of people at headquarters in Washington, D.C., quickly expanded the group to include more voices and used virtual meetings to save money.
The discussions included experts from En Route and Terminal (now merged as Air Traffic Services), System Operations, Technical Operations, and Mission Support, as well as from all of the service centers. In weekly meetings from mid-summer to September of 2012, they hashed out the basic concept for AERO.
The gist of it: Identify key performance indicators that tell the daily story of each core airport; present the information in a common format that fits onto a single sheet; use visual tools like graphics and charts to convey snapshots of data; and incorporate the complete data into an online, interactive dashboard with links that users can follow to get more details.
The metrics covered in each daily AERO report include:
- Total operations except for overflights
- The impact of weather on those operations in six-hour periods;
- The arrival efficiency of flights, which is known as the Terminal Area Efficiency Rate;
- The spacing efficiency between aircraft on final approach;
- Average taxi-in and taxi-out times;
- The number of aborted landings, or go-arounds;
- And the percentage of service hours that equipment was available.
With that game plan in hand, Beck and Skiles took the idea to the Service Area Leadership Council, which includes all service area directors and examines issues from the perspective of the whole NAS. The council endorsed the idea of the AERO database, and live demonstrations to ATO executives and leaders at the service centers and core airports followed.
“It took us seven months to get the whole country briefed,” Beck said, adding that the briefings occurred during the tight budgetary times of sequestration in 2013. He said it took minimal funding “to conceive it, produce it and send it out every day.”
The AERO team chose five air traffic control towers to give the reports a trial run. The testing began at Atlanta, Denver and Fort Worth, which received daily AERO feeds with their facility metrics for four months. The testing was later expanded to Charlotte and Miami towers.
AERO is now available to all ATO employees, who can sign up to have PDF versions of the daily reports delivered via email or explore the data in more detail. “In three clicks, you can get to Google Maps and see the actual flight path of an aircraft,” Beck said. “… You can see just about anything you want to know.”
He said some facilities print the PDFs and post them for employees to see; others display the online versions of their reports on centrally located computer screens. H-Michael Brown, the deputy vice president of Air Traffic Services, is an enthusiastic daily reviewer of AERO data, relying on the tool to give him a quick, clear snapshot of operational performance.
The Command Center in Warrenton, Va., also has an AERO report that features a systemic dashboard instead of one specific to a facility. The dashboard includes elements such as flight cancellation numbers, completion rates and diversions. The Command Center uses the report each morning to review the impact of its traffic management decisions for the previous day.
Last fall in his weekly message, former ATO Chief Operating Officer David Grizzle cited two examples of how AERO has benefited specific facilities: 1) Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport reduced its per-aircraft operations by .93 minutes; and 2) Seattle-Tacoma International Airport changed its runway management plan after using AERO data to pinpoint 5 p.m. as an inefficient time for arrivals.
Beck added that Charlotte Douglas International Airport changed the way it utilizes runways after studying its own data in AERO. The changes kept traffic from backing up at certain times.
“There are people across the country who have used [AERO] to change how they do business,” he said. “They can try different things and see how it moves the needle internally.”
McMahon said AERO takes the analysis of efficiency beyond a focus on delays. A 2,000-delay day may be warranted given weather and other constraints, he said, and the data in AERO can help ATO officials see if their tactics to manage traffic flow are achieving the right balance.
The ultimate goal of the reports is to reveal techniques that help facilities achieve efficiency so they can replicate them in the future. “It’s enabling a learning culture,” McMahon said.