Aviation Consultant Checks In After WAC PTE

Andrew Shanks is an aviation consultant for Leidos UK/Europe. He recently attended two of the aviation industry’s largest conventions — the World Air Traffic Management Congress in Madrid and the Passenger Terminal Expo in Amsterdam — and shared these insights with Leidos.com.


What are some of the main takeaways from this year’s World ATM (Air Traffic Management) Congress and Passenger Terminal Expo?

At a high level, I think we're seeing pretty big changes and gains in the technology that's being utilized and developed for ATM. In the past, and still today to an extent, air traffic management has relied on very legacy-based systems. These are systems that have been around for several decades and only now are we starting to see some of the big emerging technologies potentially be integrated into current ATM tools. 

The experts I spoke to at PTE are looking at how to drive a better, more seamless customer experience by enhancing their understanding of their operation through further data analytics. Prescriptive analytics is an emerging concept that we talked a lot about. From a technology point of view, it was fascinating to see interesting use of analytics, biometrics, and robotics.

What are some of the biggest challenges in the aviation industry coming up in the next five-to-10 years?

I think it’s a combination of keeping up with advances in technology but also the increase in traffic and demand for services. Challenges like how the service providers for aviation or ATM keep up with emerging technologies and also how they best make use of those technologies to cope with demand — all while not introducing things that could cause disruptions. 

What can airports and governing bodies do to support the aviation industry going forward, to meet these challenges? How can they be a good partner?

The role of governing bodies is to help facilitate better collaboration between the stakeholders. They should ensure that they understand what best practices are already in place and help standardize them.

aviation consultant andrew shanks checks in after wac, pte

Andrew Shanks

Can you tell us about Airport Collaborative Decision Making, or A-CDM?

The most recognized definition of A-CDM is an initiative rolled out by Eurocontrol, the European air traffic management organization. A-CDM is now being expanded to cover much more than its original focus and it’s something that other regions of the world are also taking on-board and tailoring to fit their specific needs. The best practice approach is to analyze which particular areas of A-CDM will be beneficial for an airport or for an air traffic management region, and then cherry-pick the relevant parts. 

From the Eurocontrol point of view, A-CDM was very focused on a particular area, which didn't necessarily cover the total airport management approach. So really, it's about understanding how it can be expanded to increase the benefits for more areas of the airport and the airport experience. 

A-CDM was primarily focused on airports, but it does have a huge impact on ATM, so again, it’s about making sure that air traffic management and airports work together with regards to A-CDM so that the benefits are seen across both sections of aviation in that respect.

Technology is advancing at an alarming rate. What benefits are available to those in the aviation industry looking to make use of these new technologies?

Analytical technology, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are some of the advances that the aviation industry previously didn’t use. So, clearly, there are optimization and analytics benefits ahead of how both air traffic management networks and airports perform. 

There's also the ease of collaboration between various bodies within the industry. It's notoriously difficult for airports and air traffic management to share information or to gain information from each other's systems. However, collaboration has become easier between the airports and air traffic management with the standards and architecture available within solutions from vendors.

What are some other barriers preventing the aviation industry from moving on to these new technology platforms?

Like any industry, common obstacles such as resistance to change and human factors play a part. Air traffic control is a notoriously human-intensive role and job, with regards to the actual management of air traffic, but also within airports as well, and that's always going to be a barrier. But, it's understanding how the solutions available from providers, including Leidos, are not there to replace humans but to ensure that everyone's role can become more efficient, more optimized, and therefore increase the rate at which ATM and aviation can grow.

With all these exciting changes coming to the industry, what parts of your job are the most challenging?

Probably helping potential customers understand what benefits can be gained from emerging technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. It's new to the industry, so it's making sure that we actually provide something useful using these technologies to both airport and air navigation service providers. 

When did your passion for aviation start?

Very young! I was taken every year to an air show at a local military air base. It really interested me and then I was, not pushed into a job, per se, but suggested to go for a job by my mother at our local airport when she thought it was time I started contributing! I've been involved in aviation ever since. 

You travel a lot as part of your job — what are some airports that are good examples for others to follow as far as embracing technology and efficiency?

Having just recently returned from AMS, I was very impressed. The use of self-service technology made the journey very seamless and enjoyable. They also have a particularly pleasant security experience which aids that process as well.

I also recently traveled through Auckland airport, one of our customers, and the use of Leidos technology certainly helped make that a great example of efficiency and an enjoyable experience. 

What sets Leidos apart as an aviation solutions partner? 

My colleagues and I have experience across the whole aviation sector. We not only have people who've worked operationally in airports — people that understand what the customers' requirements are — we also have savvy aviation experts on the business side of the company who are hugely passionate about the industry. Whether it’s airports or ATM providers, Leidos leverages new technologies to develop new products, services, and solutions. 

We think it’s vital to be at the forefront of the aviation technology business, which is why we do so much internal research and development. We’re always thinking about not just what's coming next year but what's coming in the next five-to-10 years and how we can bring new technologies to market.

For more information, contact one of our specialists using the form below.