Pittsburgh Airport trials autonomous delivery vehicles

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Pittsburgh Airport in Pennsylvania, US, is testing autonomous delivery vehicles to deliver select passengers a contactless delivery system.

The brainchild of startup tech company, Ottonomy, IO, the autonomous delivery vehicles are the latest pilot project to be trialled in coordination with the airport’s xBridge innovation hub. The vehicles will transport products sold in airport’s shops to travellers who typically do not stop to visit stores or eateries in the airport.

“We are committed to providing the best customer experiences by discovering and implementing innovative solutions that utilise cutting-edge technology,” said xBridge Director, Cole Wolfson. “We’ve built a culture of innovation and we are excited to partner with Ottonomy to advance this technology in an airport environment.”

The innovative technology enables customers to order goods via an app on their phone. The robot will then collect the necessary items and swiftly deliver them to the customer at their gate.

“Across the globe, airports are similar,” says Ritukar Vijay, co-founder and CEO of Ottonomy.IO. “There might be large and smaller ones, but more or less the overall setup is similar. So that gives us scale: if it works at a couple of airports, it is applicable to almost all of them.”

Having launched in 2020, during the pandemic when robotic delivery vehicles were already being deployed in various environments, Vijay explains most were teleoperated or remotely piloted by humans.

Ottonomy.OI, he says is better positioned to scale up and avoid the impact of labour shortages as his autonomous robots do not require human assistance.

“We focused on full autonomy right from day one,” adds Vijay. “Our approach has been to ensure that the Ottobot would have the capacity to run autonomously in crowded and dynamic environments,” he continued.

Earlier versions of the robots have previously been tested in Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky, where they were equiped with LIDAR and a wide variety of sensors were rolled out at the end of 2021.

The new version has been upgraded to improve maneuverability. It can perform zero-radius turns and crabwalk or move sideways to help it move through crowded terminals and avoid people and obstacles in its path.

“Airports are a unique spot,” noted Vijay. ” There’s some amount of structure and scale. It is very dynamic, where the users are concerend. That kind of dynamic environment, that is very, very important to figure out how autonomous navigation can be utilised within that space.”

Enhanced passenger services under trial at Munich Airport

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Munich Airport in Germany is currently conducting a 60-day trial of a new service which provides faster access to security and passport control for passengers in order to enhance customer flow and the overall airport experience.

The new ‘Express Queue’ reservation system aims to manager passenger flows ahead of security checkpoints in Terminal 1 more effectively and reduce waiting times. Those travelling to destinations in non-Schengen countries now have the option to secure a complimentary 30-minute window for access to security checkpoints and passport control.

Passengers can book an express slot through the airport’s website and the service is available from 6am to 3pm at security checkpoints in departure areas B and C in Terminal 1. Once they have proceeded through check-in, pre-booked passengers turn up at the Express Queue entrance in front of the security checkpoint within their time slot. By scanning their QR code on their booking confirmation, they then carry on straight to the security checkpoint via a separate entrance. The same QR code also provides fast-track access to passport control.

Sky Express launches Milan to Athens flights

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Milan Malpensa Airport in Italy welcomed a new link to Athens courtesy of SKY express on 26 October.

The direct flights from Malpensa to Athens International Airport are being operated five times a week, on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays using Airbus A320neo aircraft. The link will provide those flying from the Italian hub with a capillary network of flights to the Greek islands.

The addition of Milan to its network marks the first European country from which SKY express is operating two destinations throughout the year.

“In Italy, a year ago, we created a bridge that boosts tourism and the economy,” said Vasilis Krasanakis, Revenue & Pricing Manger at SKY express. “A decision vindicated by the dynamic response from the passenger public. Staying true to its vision to fly higher every year, SKY express further strengthens its presence in the market, by launching the Athens – Milan direct connection and now offering travellers a new, reliable and cost-effective option.”

Andrea Tucci, VP Aviation Business Development at SEA Milan Airports added: “The new connections to Athens satisfy the traffic demand to European cities, like Milan, attracting the most dynamic and curious tourism that searches for a complete travel experience. SKY express in addition to this connection brings a wider network to the Greek islands improving the quality of connections already this fall. Offering our market the possibility to discover a Mediterranean with different flavours, scents and colours compared to those we are used to in the summer.”

FAA approves $100m in grants for Detroit Airport

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Detroit’s Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport (otherwise known as City Airport) is poised to begin a massive transformation following the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) approval of plans to develop the air transport hub.

The approval means the airport is now eligible for an estimated $100m in federal grants over the next 10 years, enabling the airport to invest in new hangars, a new control tower, improved taxiways and safety zone, new airport-related development opportunities as well as the return of the Benjamin O. Davis Aerospace Technical High School to the airport grounds.

“City Airport has been an underutilised asset and in decline for generations,” said Mayor Duggan. “Less than a decade ago, the city’s emergency manager had considered selling our airport to pay off some of the city’s debts. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and today, thanks  to the great work of our airport leadership team and partnership with the FAA and MDOT, City is about to see new investment and new life as a centre of opportunity.”

In 2012, Engine 20 at the airport had been decommissioned and firefighting responsibilities for the airport shifted to a nearby fire house. In 2021, the airport firefighting facility was renovated and City Airport is now training additional firefighters so the station can be reactivated within the next two years.

“This is a very exciting time for the airport and the city,” said Airport Director, Jason Watt. “This marks the first time in 30 years that we have a plan that meets all Federal and State airport design standards and allows the airport to be redeveloped over the next 20 years. We are open for business and excited for the future.”

The development plans at the airport mark an exciting new chapter. In the first half of the 20th century, Detroit City Airport served as the region’s primary hub for more than 20 years. Although most airlines move to Willow Run Airport in 1947, City Airport remained home to many private and corporate jets as well as flight training schools.

Now with the planned capital improvements, the air transport hub is expected to generate additional take-offs without the need for a runway expansion.



Work begins on Gwalior’s new airport terminal in India

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Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Gwalior Airport in the state of Madhya Pradesh has marked a milestone in the construction of its new terminal after the Government of India conducted a ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the new building.

While the current terminal has a capacity to handle 200 passengers during peak hours with its runway accommodating up to A-320 and ATR072 type aircraft, the new facility will be able to handle 1,400 passengers during peak hours. It is being built with an investment of INR4.5bn ($54m) and will be developed on 172 acres of land. The apron will have a parking capacity of 13 aircraft, four times higher than the current capacity. A cargo terminal is also being established to promote economic growth

According to Union Home and Cooperation Minister, Shri Amit Shah, the planned development will make Gwalior one of the best airports in the country. The Minister for Civil Aviation and Steel, Shri Jyotiraditya M. Scindia added that “under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi,  new India is being developed which leads to the development of a new Madhya Pradesh and a new Gwalior.”

He also noted that “This terminal will strengthen this development. In the last year, the air activities of Madhya Pradesh have increased by 48% where earlier there were 554 arrivals and departures every week.” He also revealed that the Gwalior will be connected  with Bangalore six days a week by SpiceJet.

With a focus on sustainable growth, the new terminal building will be powered by solar energy and will feature rainwater harvesting. It will also embrace a sense of place with an amalgamation of Gwalior’s cultural heritage fused with modern amenities.

Cologne Bonn to benefit from ultra-modern control centre

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Cologne Bonn Airport’s Terminal 1 is to welcome an ultra-modern Airport Operation Control Centre (AOCC), from where the operational management team will plan, control and monitor all processes relating to flight management, passengers and cargo, from arrival at to departure from the airport.

The AOCC will mean that decision-makers from various departments across the airport (including staff from traffic management, baggage handling and ground handling) are on site around the clock. Service providers responsible for process such as police, security and cargo will also be represented in the future in the new AOCC, making exchange and communication even closer and operations more efficient.

“In the future, the AOCC will join up all the different threads. It will lift real-time process control a new level, making an essential contribution in doing so to the development of the airport,” said Thilo Schmid, President and CEO of Cologne Bonn.

“Processes at the airport are multi-layered and highly complex. The new, centralised control cockpit allows direct communication between internal and external partners, flexible planning and rapid, process-oriented decision-making, even during periods of disruption to normal operations caused, for example, by bad weather.”

With a view overlooking the apron, cargo area and runway, the AOCC is around 500 sq. m. It features a central control room with 24 work stations for internal and external staff and a 15-m wide video wall composed of 20 screens, on which information relevant to airport operations from weather and special airport apps to news can be shown. In addition, staff will be able to make use of a lounge, offices, meeting spaces and technical rooms.

While employees working in teh AOCC are already undergoing training, the first control tests are planned to take place from December with full operation likely to begin in February 2023.


Header image: The new AOCC at Cologne Bonn Airport. 

Norfolk Airport in Virginia partners with AeroCloud to transform operations

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Norfolk International Airport in Virginia, US, has awarded a contract to cloud-native software platform provider, AeroCloud Systems, to provide Gate Management System (GMS) and Intelligent Airport Managment (IAM).

Having added 20 new destinations since bringing on Breeze and Allegiant Airlines, Norfolk Airport is now focused on automating its core airport services, including the allocation of aircraft parking positions and tracking the aerial and ground locations of arriving and departing aircraft.

“With our state-of-the-art modular platform, Norfolk International will benefit from a unique solution which will improve the experience of the 3.5 million passengers who pass through the airport each years,” said George Richardson, CEO and Co-Founder of AeroCloud.

Users of the platform at the Virginia hub will have access to an open architecture platform, which provides insights into flight operations and passenger behaviour, as well as facilitating capacity forecasting and increased agility with daily operations.

Referencing how the airport operates in a delicate ecological sanctuary, Richardson explained how AeroCloud’s GMS will allow the airport to expand its capacity whilst avoiding the environmental impact and cost of additional infrastructure. “Our flight and gate management systems will enable the airport to grow and ultimately better serve its airlines, operators and passengers whilst avoiding the negative impact on the surrounding ecosystem through further development,” he said.

Meanwhile, Andrew Hoppe, Director of Airport Engagement, Americas for AeroCloud added: “Our product automates the manual tasks of the operations team, is cost-effective, flexible and offers customers unlimited user licenses in a proven mission-critical solution- that’s what appealed to Norfolk International.

“Our GMS is cutting edge and will enable their team to automate their week of operations planning and respond to tactical day of changes based on accurate real-time data. Airports have been asking for this for years, and AeroCloud is the only company that can deliver it to them.”

Jet East expands operations with North Carolina acquisition

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MRO provider and Gama Aviation company, Jet East, has agreed to open a full-service flagship maintenance facility at  Statesville Regional Airport (SVH) in North Carolina, US. This additional site will compliment Jet East’s existing footprint which includes coast to coast maintenance bases and an expansive AOG network.

The new base features two state-of-the-art facilities with a combined 75,000 sq. ft. of hangar space, 40,000 sq. ft. of office and back shop space and an additional parcel of land for future growth. Built in 2004, the original hangar is in great condition according to Jet East and fully equipped with LED lighting, fall protection and a fire suppression system for Jet East to take immediate possession. A secondary hangar built in 2007 provides complementary infrastructure.

For the new facility, Jet East is anticipating it will be launched in early 2023 with customers able to benefit from full-service capabilities, including every facet of maintenance, avionics, interiors, composites and structures. In addition, there are immediate plans to construct a brand-new paint facility at the site. Key airframe types that will be the primary focus include Cessna, Gulfstream, Bombardier and Embraer aircraft.

Stephen Maiden, Jet East President and CEO commented: “The facility at SVH offers an amazing opportunity for Jet East and allows us to expand our capacity, capabilities and reach within a key region of the US. The facility is in impeccable condition. The energy for this new endeavour is high and this is truly a milestone moment for the Jet East team and the customers we serve and support.”

Maiden was joined by SVH Airport Manager, John Ferguson, who said: “We are extremely pleased that Jet East selected Statesville as the location for their newest maintenance repair and overhaul facility. This exciting partnership will bring additional corporate aircraft into the Statesville Regional Airport from all over the world. We look forward to a long-term relationship and the overall benefit it will bring to our community.”

With Statesville Airport conveniently located 40 minutes north of Charlotte Jet East estimates bringing more than 250 jobs to the area as a result of the new location.

Milan Malpensa restores Cathay Pacific link with Hong Kong

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After more than two and a half years Milan Malpensa Airport in Italy has welcomed the return of Cathay Pacific’s service between the Italian hub and Hong Kong. The restored route is the only direct connection between the two destinations.

The return of the air link marks a historic moment for the Hong-Kong based airline as it symbolises a further step towards the full resumption of operations in Europe, which were interrupted in January 2020 as a result of COVID-19 but are gradually being restored thanks to the gradual relaxation of regulations for travel to the East.

Andrea Tucci, Vice President Aviation Business Development at SEA, said: “The carrier’s decision to restart connections to Italy, as soon as regulatory and business conditions allowed and the decision to focus on Malpensa as a priority to reactivate connections from Italy  on its network, confirms the strategic role of our infrastructure in particular for long-haul connections. The combination of a strong and rapidly recovering market measured by the size of the catchment area served and the attractiveness of the area for all travel segments and motivations is the founding element in Cathay’s investment decision.”

Tucci also noted that Milan’s connectivity to Cathay’s network via Hong Kong will ensure the development of the regional hub’s connectivity to Asia and Oceania by increasing the quality of commercial offerings at Malpensa. “Currently the traffic recovery at our airport is 97% of pre-COVID thanks to the contribution of 75 airlines on a network of 195 destinations, in particular the overall recovery on long-haul expected for winter is 88%, further confirming the importance of our infrastructure for the air transport industry.”

Flights from Italy will be operated with new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, the flagship of the company’s fleet, which in recent years has intensified its efforts to offer passengers a superior flying experience within the perimeter of increasingly sustainable aviation. Well suited for long-haul and ultra-long-haul flights the A350-1000 will have a three-class configuration and a total of 334 available seats.

Birmingham welcomes increase in services to India

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Birmingham Airport in the UK has welcomed the increase of Air India’s weekly flights from one to six with two additional weekly services to Amritsar and three new links to Delhi. The additional flights will be phased in by the end of December 2022.

The airline had reduced the frequency of its services between Birmingham and India to just one flight a week in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Adding frequency and improving connectivity from major Indian cities to more international destinations is a significant focus,” said Campbell Wilson, Chief Executive of Air India. “It is a clear signal of our intent, and an early step towards a much bigger aspiration.”

The move to increase services between the two destinations comes 10 months after Air India’s acquisition by the Tata Group. In addition to leasing new aircraft, Air India has been working to restore existing narrow-body and wide-body aircraft to the operating fleet.

Tom Screen, Aviation Director for Birmingham noted: “We’re doing backward somersaults of joy at the prospect of increasing our India flight frequency to six a week. So many of our customers want this. We’re thrilled it’s happening.”