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‘Friend-lean’ flying: EADS and Altran discuss the airport of the future

An airport without queues, long walking distances or confusing structures, in which the required time between arrival at the airport and boarding the aircraft is only 10 minutes. EADS Innovation Works (IW), the corporate network of research centres of EADS, and Altran, an international advanced engineering and innovation consulting group, are jointly working on projects supporting the long-term evolution of the air transport industry. The goal of a recent study was to create revolutionary airport concepts.

• Friend-lean airport of the future

• 10 minutes from arrival to boarding

• 6.5 million passengers worldwide per day in 2010

• 44 million passengers worldwide per day in 2050

EADS IW and Altran organised workshops with representatives of airlines, airports, air traffic management and aircraft manufacturers as well as representatives of other transport sectors. It was recognised that, for short and medium flights, future passengers’ experience will play a significant role in the competition between aviation and high-speed rail transport.

This research contributes to the goals set forth in the European Commission’s report ‘Flightpath 2050 – Europe’s Vision for Aviation’, whose target is for 90% of travellers in Europe to be able to complete their journey, door to door, within four hours. Intermodal transfers will be seamless and final destinations are to be reached smoothly,predictably and on time while accommodating the increasing demand for air travel.

“These concepts put passengers at the heart of the air transport system. The result is a passenger-friendly experience and lean processes which we have labelled ‘Friend-Lean Airport of the Future’,” said Guy Gallic, head of the Technical Capability Centre “Innovative Concepts and Scenarios” at EADS IW.

“In future, we will speak not only about infrastructure but about an ‘extended door-todoor experience’. The airport terminal will become a lean step in the journey towards co-modal and connected travel,” explained Sébastien Renouard, Executive Director AeroSpace & Defence International at Altran.

On an average day in 2010, 6.5 million passengers flew an average of 2,000km on one of 14,000 commercial jets. By 2050, the number of passengers per day will increase to roughly 44 million globally. Investigating a time frame beyond 2040, the study aimed to find revolutionary airport concepts capable of handling 25-100 million passengers per year. It was assumed that aircraft interfaces would be similar to those of today’s types.

Many different ideas were conceptualised, some of which fuelled creativity while others were subsequently discarded. The following three concepts were selected and elaborated in more detail.

The ‘Eye to the Sky’ concept

The aircraft traffic area is located above the terminals, while the flow of passengers through the terminals to their planes is vertical. From arriving at the airport to reaching their seats on the plane, passengers use spiral ramps that link every level of the airport.

This concept focuses not only on infrastructural design but also on solutions for guiding passengers through an augmented reality information system. A mobile device would connect to the airport network and act as a portable personal guide to help people find their way at the airport. Lean security systems based on new technologies would also be embedded.

©Copyright Altran Pr[i]me

The ‘Passenger Airport Shuttles (PAS)’ concept

With a predicted time of at most seven minutes to get from anywhere in the airport to any Skygate, passengers can choose to spend more time at the airport’s central terminal facilities or they can arrive at the airport less than 10 minutes before departure and still catch their flight.

In this decentralised approach, passengers are moved in Passenger Airport Shuttle vehicles which are guided by an automated central airport control system. An identification function ensures that passengers and their travel data are recognised by the control system as soon as they board, and the vehicle then offers them a transportation and information service dedicated to their specific needs. Aircraft will be docked to a ‘Skygate’, a minimal building that forms the interface between the aircraft and the PAS. Baggage will be handled at the Skygate, reducing the baggage deposition and retrieval times to a minimum.

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The ‘Extended Airport’ concept

The Extended Airport concept addresses the vision of providing a door-to-door travel service in the literal sense by extending the transportation service so that passengers (or just their luggage) are picked up at their home or office.

In this vision, air transport and airports are fully integrated with other transport modes.

The proper competition and collaboration between modes of transport are ensured by a transport planner on the user interface where passengers can plan their trips.

It will take many revolutions in the air transport sector to create solutions that deliver on the ambitious objectives set forth by the European Commission’s FlightPath 2050. The investigation of airport concepts is a step in the right direction, and this study is just a beginning.

EADS IW and Altran are the principal partners in this research. Collaboration with students from the ENPC School of International Management (École des Ponts ParisTech, France) and HPI (Hasso-Plattner-Institut – University of Potsdam, Germany) has brought fresh minds and unconventional ideas to the work.