Air Transport World

New crew rescheduling system copes with flight disruptions at TWA; SBS software's ability to restore battered schedules in minutes promised to lighten effects of weather and mechanical problems.

New crew rescheduling system copes with flight disruptions at TWA

Major weather disturbances, like Hurricane Gloria which recently raked the East Coast, can drive airline passengers crazy with flight delays and cancellations. But this is nothing compared to what they do to an airline's operations people. Come Gloria, ATC delays, a PATCO strike, or mechanical problems, they've got to keep the system up and running, and if not, then get it back into shape as fast as possible and without compromising safety. If they don't do it in a timely fashion, not only the passengers suffer; it may cost the carrier a pile of money.

At a large airline it's a mind-boggling job, like trying to put together a multi-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle on a wildly shaking table. TWA has tested and is about to adopt a system that shrugs off the boggle and doesn't mind the shakes. Its developer claims it is the only such system in the world.

To get an idea of what the new system does, let's take a general look at how TWA assigns its aircraft and aircraft personnel and how it goes about restructuring damaged schedules.

Say the airline's schedule for next month has been set. Aircraft have been designated for each trip, taking into account the need to have each tail at its appropriate station at a specific time for required inspections or maintenance (some 50 types of maintenance are tracked) and to be available for the start of the following day's service. This is one of the responsibilities of the operational planning section within the operations control department. Once operational planning has fixed the day's routing for each aircraft, the airplanes are assigned to flights in TWA's COMMAND computer system.

Crew members have submitted their bids for trips and pairings have been made, taking into account seniority, base domiciles, scheduled training and medical appointments, legalities with regard to duty time limitations as defined by the FAA, contractual rules or company policy, and cabin staffing levels based on projected load factors. These procedures and the construction of a master schedule for the upcoming month for each crew member are orchestrated by operations control's crew schedule section, using TWA's Crew Administration Management System (CAMS) computer program. …

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