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Airport capacity dynamics: A ‘proof of concept’ approach

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posted on 20.02.2018, 11:23 by Bruno Desart
The continuing growth in aviation has meant that the 35 largest airports in Europe reached saturation in 2005. The consequences have been increasing air traffic congestion, delays and associated costs. There is therefore a clear need to create more capacity. However, airports in particular and the air transport system in general are also subject to sudden fluctuations in demand and capacity. This research synthesizes the mechanisms of airport capacity fluctuations through the analytical formulation of concepts of capacity dynamics, capacity elasticities and capacity stability. It demonstrates the usability of these concepts through, firstly, a case study application to Brussels National Airport and, secondly, the development of a 'proof of concept' decision-support tool for strategic and tactical airport planning. Capacity dynamics and elasticities provide a performance indication as to how quickly capacity is able to change in response to fluctuations brought about by one or more capacity disrupters, whilst capacity stability provides airport planners with a measure of capacity robustness. These three concepts - capacity dynamics, elasticities and stability - contribute to a better a priori understanding of the airport system to be modelled. They demonstrate a better quantification of the impact and sensitivity of all the factors that affect runway capacity. It is also shown how the three concepts can assist in a better quantification of the risk of potential capacity fluctuation within the scope of airport planning. Based on this analytical formulation and quantification, mitigation should be an integral part of any effective airport plan in order to predict better the response to any given potential capacity degradation. It has been found that, from a capacity perspective, an airport becomes less stable the higher its level of performance. This capacity/stability paradox enables the ultimate goal of investment in capacity enhancement to be challenged, and it is legitimately questioned whether a similar investment would not be more worthwhile at secondary airports rather than at major airports.



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering


© Bruno Desart

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.