Runway Scheduling at Heathrow Airport
We have been working with National Air Traffic Services to investigate take-off scheduling at London Heathrow airport, one of the busiest airports in the world. Runway controllers re-order aircraft for take-off within holding areas at the ends of the runway. They currently do this manually, despite the complex physical constraints imposed by the holding point structures and temporal constraints imposed by the mandated separation rules and take-off slots. Changing the take-off order for aircraft currently reduces the total delay for aircraft taking off to around a third of that obtained by a first come first served ordering. We have been investigating the feasibility of providing a decision support system for runway controllers, taking into account more aircraft than the controllers could be expected to do, to achieve further delay savings by early prediction and rectification of future problems. The model we have built for a decision support system will be presented. We will also discuss how a hybrid meta-heuristic search is used to find good take-off schedules fast enough to be of use in a real-time system. Finally, the simulation model we use to assess the performance of the decision support system will be presented together with some of the results we have obtained.