The growing demand for air transport services increases congestion problems at airports with serious negative consequences on the level of service offered to the travelling public, the quality of the surrounding environment, and the safety of the air transport system. The relative importance of airports in the intermodal transportation system is growing. The smooth integration of airports in the overall transportation system prerequisites the availability of relevant information: hence the need for an airport observatory.
The innovation of APRON relates to the fact that an airport observatory network did not previously exist and the European Commission did not have direct access to an airport performance information system to withdraw policy-sensitive information prior to APRON.
Within the FP5 framework, APRON responds to the task "Observatory of the performance of the European airport system. Assessment of the impact of air-traffic in the airports".
The main objectives of the APRON project were to:
1. Review, assess and collect existing data and information to satisfy user requirements.
APRON first had to provide highly organised, standardised and unified information, which would be permanently validated by the airport industry, in order for it to be easily and directly available for the European transport policy formulation process. Moreover, this would reduce costs and increase efficiency in the decision process, as the information provided by the observatory allows more concentration to be spent on the analysis of policy issues instead of data collection.
2. Work out all matters concerning the establishment of an airport observatory network.
APRON aimed to stimulate the progress of policy monitoring for the benefit of society and the efficient allocation of resources. This could only be achieved by reducing the need for data collection and compilation. Therefore, the achievements of several European projects were integrated with the aim of avoiding double work. To also make optimal use of available sources (data, information), information from related organisations like Eurostat, Eurocontrol, ACI-Europe, and DG TREN, would have to be integrated as much as possible.
3. Produce a technical environment to maintain, access and provide the observatory data and information in a user friendly way.
APRON had to develop a user-friendly database and information system, enabling and facilitating efficient analysis of different policy options. Indeed, if effeciently used, the system would allow the information and the providers to enjoy a new type of interaction with the policy makers: the decision process would be streamlined and efforts better directed towards main policy aims. This had to be established in a pan-European context.
The APRON project was carried out in 4 stages:
Stage 1: Assessment of existing information and information sources, and information requirement analysis
The objectives of this first stage were to identify the sources from which relevant and reliable data pertaining to strategic airport policy analysis and management can be retrieved, the particular data items provided by each of the identified sources, and the conditions under which this data can be retrieved for use within the observatory network.
After identification of information sources, it was necessary to conduct an information requirement analysis. This involved
- the identification of the stakeholders in the air transport policy making process,
- the elicitation and analysis of the information requirements capable of “feeding” / supporting the different elements of the airport and air transport decision making process,
- the elicitation of the user perceptions and attitudes with respect to the preferred functionalities of the airport observatory network / platform,
- the identification of the requirements and constraints to establish and maintain an observatory network.
Stage 2: Data collection and validation
This second stage defined the core of the APRON project. Based on the user requirements that were defined in Stage 1, demand data, airport infrastructure data, investment data, accessibility data, etc was collected from relevant sources and from the airports that participated in the project. The data was checked and validated and stored in a structured manner in the APRON databank. During this last procedure, the various integration possibilities and issues were explored and addressed, in order to achieve a harmonised and structured storage.
Data validation involved enhancing, validating, and finalising the results of the work previously undertaken, while ensuring maximum applicability of the database as a source for policy formulation purposes. Last, the security framework of the airport observatory database was worked out.
Stage 3: Establishment of the airport observatory network
Firstly, this third Stage proposed to identify the requirements and constraints necessary in establishing and maintaining an observatory network, and to formally propose an organisational and operational framework providing guidelines and establishing procedures for the daily operation of t
The APRON project to brought together and harmonised data not only from the individual airports participating so far in the observatory, but also data coming from other sources, e.g. Eurostat, Eurocontrol, ACI, etc.
The airport observatory developed during the APRON project provided the basis for solving the problem of the existing data fragmentation, coupled with the inconsistent definitions of data categories included in various existing data bases. The APRON airport observatory prototype included useful data categories with a sufficient level of detail to cover important decision making and policy needs.
The APRON Observatory and website is a system of giving and taking, i.e. where reciprocity leads to a win-win situation for all parties. Indeed, the proposed structure for the APRON Observatory links the main entities together via a central web-based service, which is accessible to the participants of the APRON Observatory community. It retrieves data or information from the de-centralised network of participants. Its main function is to be an information platform, which retrieves requested information, data or analyses based on data (supplied mainly by the participating airports) and to be the communication / information platform for the EU policy makers to share information concerning the (ongoing) policy formulation processes.
As such, the APRON Observatory is not a central repository of all data supplied by each participant, but the tool to retrieve the necessary de-central, dispersed data from the participants (e.g., the network of airports) in order to produce requested analyses for the user.
To summarise, the project provided a fully operational web-site and IT prototype for APRON. Furthermore, the Indicator-based approach, the carefully designed system architecture and the developed tools constitute a solid methodology and framework for future developments – not only in the field covered by the project.
The APRON project demonstrated the usefulness for the European Airport Industry to have a one-stop shop for airport related data.
However, in order for the airport observatory to realise its full potential in terms of valuable data, more airports need to provide data. It is therefore considered of vital importance to promote the participation in the airport observatory to more European Airports.
The relevance of a European Airport Observatory was acknowledged, as was underlined the importance and usefulness for the European Airport Industry to have an one-stop shop for airport related data. Moreover, the APRON airport observatory prototype includes useful data categories with a sufficient level of detail to cover important decision making and policy needs. It is therefore, considered of vital importance to promote the participation in the airport observatory of more European Airports.
In this setting, the project brought forth:
- A Europe-wide approach for consistent information applicable to all airports, thus increasing the level of understanding between policy makers and the airport industry
- Transparency of input for the policy formulation processes based on facts delivered by airports, increasing the acceptability of European policy
- Direct contact with policy decision makers due to their participation in APRON
- Possibility of monitoring air transport policy and analysing effects of policy decisions.
Lastly, the APRON project carried out a Return on Investment analysis, concluding the validity of the concept and its implementation.
Importantly, the stakeholders reconfirmed their willingness to continue with the operation of the airport observatory.