Frankfurt Airport adopts FlightAware as primary arrivals data supplier

This is an extraordinary but somehow inevitable commercial development. Frankfurt Airport has adopted the FlightAware system to predict the arrival of aircraft rather than use air traffic control.

When an aircraft takes off ATC has no idea at the destination what it’s real landing time will be. Using ADS-B satellite data from the aircraft, every minute of the flight in most cases these days is available, and landing times can be predicted hours ahead.

This enables airports to be ready far sooner, plan resource allocation and remain flexible. If an aircraft is going to be delayed by an hour the airport can adjust gates, catering, cleaning, luggage handling and transfer staff, as well as special assistance units.

If one or more aircraft are delayed or likely to arrive early, taxing on-site resources, external on-call staff can be alerted and brought in to deal with it in plenty of time.

The accuracy of FlightAware information is near-instantaneous and it gives the airport huge flexibility.

Despite ATC’s best efforts it simply doesn’t work in the same way, largely because of the way it’s developed historically, and the fact it mostly uses geographically and politically limited areas of operation, and ground based radars.

In any event it’s a big deal when a private company is supplying one of the worlds biggest airports with data in this way. It has to be the tip of the iceberg, once everyone sees Frankfurt use it effectively, it’ll spread globally fairly quickly.

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