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The Aviation Intelligence Unit providing timely and precise aviation industry data during the crisis

Aviation industry data

EUROCONTROL’s role in providing key operational data has become even more significant as aviation stakeholders seek firm facts and figures on which they build their survival and recovery plans explains Denis Huet, Head of Aviation Intelligence at EUROCONTROL

Europe’s aviation stakeholders have had a unique resource to support them in managing operations following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and then plan for a coordinated recovery. Since the start of the crisis EUROCONTROL’s Aviation Intelligence Unit has published daily updates on the traffic situation in Europe, tracking movements throughout the entire European network, at major airports, air traffic control (ATC) centres and for major aircraft operators, enhanced by more regular detailed traffic analysis such as weekly Comprehensive Assessment reports.

“Back in February we saw what was happening in the Far East and we realised that something important was coming – and then we decided on a number of actions,” says Denis Huet, Head of Aviation Intelligence at EUROCONTROL. The Agency urgently needed to collate as much relevant traffic data as possible from all known sources so the unfolding traffic patterns could be assessed at the weekly Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) meetings. But from the start it was clear that this data would also be of invaluable use to all aviation stakeholders, so it quickly became publicly available.

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“We proposed at the start of the crisis to set up a daily traffic dashboard in an interactive way so that our stakeholders could query the data, analyse the trends and add their own inputs, to give a precise view of overall flight numbers, variations from the previous year and a weekly moving average,” says Denis Huet.

“In terms of data provided to the outside world we have not limited ourselves to an operational assessment and the daily update – we have also incorporated data from States and airlines outlining their COVID-19 responses."

Since then, the daily traffic updates have been enhanced with a growing amount of more wide-ranging and precise indications of traffic demand as the number of data sources has increased and additional analytical tools introduced to interpret the raw data in more meaningful ways.

Over the ensuing weeks and months the Unit has increased not just the amount of data it publishes but has added new sources and media. It uses various social media channels to update stakeholders and the website currently records 1,200 users downloading 3,000 pages of records every day.

The audience is global. But the effort to develop and maintain this flow of reliable, validated data on a daily basis has been immense.

“One challenge has been to organise the data flow and quality checks to ensure a continuous update every day,” says Denis Huet. “For the Comprehensive Assessment reports we use this core data but also data from as many other reliable sources as we can: ACI EUROPE airport passenger throughput reports, Aireon ADS-B surveillance data for Middle East and China traffic flows as well as open-source ADS-B data for other parts of the world like North America.”

Another challenge has been to ensure the quality of the data, which has involved a mix of manual inputting and automatic extraction from stakeholder databases. “It required some internal organisation here but we are fully comfortable with the quality of the data; it’s done on a daily basis using the data from the day before,” says Huet. “During the crisis, we have always ensured that everyone would be comfortable with what we have published, avoiding in particular releasing commercially sensitive information.”

Aviation industry data
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The work of EUROCONTROL’s Aviation Intelligence Unit – which hosts the Performance Review Unit (PRU) charged with delivering to interested stakeholders relevant, high-quality information on Pan-European ANS performance, as well as the Business Intelligence and Statistics Unit – has cemented the Agency’s role as a unique source for reliable data provision, ensuring a key and timely delivery of operational data for all stakeholders.

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