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Runway Capacity Analysis

Estimating runway capacity is fundamental to all airport planning. As more and more airports become capacity constrained, optimizing the usage of runway resources is often their primary objective. AirTOp has a module to accurately assess existing or future runway capacity of a given airport.

Runway Capacity Analyzer scenario definition interface

Runway Capacity Analyzer scenario definition interface

Sequence flight list

Key benefits

AirTOp’s Runway Capacity Analyzer overcomes the limitations of existing analytical capacity assessments by applying the Monte Carlo simulation method to calculate runway throughput. The method allows for a practically unlimited number of traffic sequences to be analyzed in order to obtain the corresponding capacities of the runway system in place at a given airport, while respecting the user-definable (optional) constraints on fleet mix, Level of Service, arrival/departure ratio and possible schedule times.

With Runway Capacity Analysis it is possible to:

  • Evaluate existing or future capacity of the airport’s runway system
  • Obtain optimized traffic sequence
  • Test future traffic demand in terms of capacity shortfall or excess
  • Optimize the allocation of new slots in case of increased runway capacity
  • Study the impact on runway capacity from changes in:
    • Fleet mix
    • Aircraft separations
    • Traffic sequence
    • Schedule times
    • Runway configurations
    • Runway Occupancy Time
    • Level of Service (accepted delay)
    • Runway entry / exit selection
    • Preferential treatment of certain flights
  • Obtain delay statistics relative to different traffic sequences
  • Obtain ranges of throughputs corresponding to various conditions
  • Incorporate the effect of uncertainty (e.g. airline delay, runway entry selection, etc.)

Scenario definition

Runway Capacity Analysis re-uses existing AirTOp airport model set-up (configurations, runways, runway schedules, runway dependencies, runway entries and exits). To establish the throughput, the runway system is considered independently of constraints in the airspace or on the airport airside. All the constraints linked to adequately separating flights on the runway are taken into account, by applying AirTOp’s Runway Dependency modeling capabilities, where the separation rules and values to be applied for pairs of departure and arrival operations are defined.

When an existing or forecast traffic sample is available, it can be used as the basis for the throughput estimation. The tool enables the use of AirTOp FlightPlans for the runway capacity analysis.

When a precise flight schedule is not available, the tool can generate traffic samples. Throughput estimates carried out using generated traffic can be used to declare the capacity of the runway system of the given airport. This can apply, for example, to new airports or airports with new runways. The generated traffic builds upon various parameters that involve for example fleet mix, arrival/departure ratio, and possible schedule times.

A certain level of randomization can be added to the analysis at several levels. This allows the testing of the sensitivity of the runway system to uncertainty and resulting variation in operation.

  • Variation can be added to the schedule times of the User’s flight list. This can be done to mimic, for example, different on-time performance of different airlines.
  • Runway exits can be modelled with random effect on the exit selection, to realistically take into account the variation in the decisions taken by aircraft pilots.
  • Variation can also be added to the aircraft separations, to reflect variation in the performance of the air traffic controllers.
  • For traffic generation several random sampling techniques are available.

When optimizing the flight sequence, the Runway Capacity Analysis tool can be configured to consider the Level of Service (LOS) concept, which generally defines the maximum accepted delays with respect to the schedule times. LOS can be defined separately for departures and arrivals and can take into account the overall (average) delay accepted for all flights as well as the maximum delay accepted for a single flight. The LOS concept can also be customized further by introducing FlightPlan Conditions, in order to assign a different LOS to a given airline, to a given hour etc.

Runway sequence calculation methods

Runway Capacity Analysis arranges the flight plans in an optimum sequence, resulting in a maximised throughput. Various throughput estimates can be obtained, depending on the type of traffic data used for the calculations and the applied calculation methods. For example, the sequence can be built from an initial flight list but can also consider additional flights from an optional flight list. For generated traffic, the throughput can be analysed for a fixed demand or maximised within the given constraints.


Runway Capacity Analyzer allows the execution of multiple runs of the same analysis in series. This allows for increased statistical robustness of the analysis. Each run results in one traffic sequence, for which the tool presents the outputs. The tool also calculates an overall throughput estimate which is the average of the results from all the runs.

The results from the Runway Capacity Analyzer are presented both numerically and graphically in various formats, which allows for the validation of the calculations as well as effective presentation to stakeholders.

Delay distribution over multiple runs

Delay distribution by flight over multiple runs

Delay distribution of the calculated sequence

Throughput distribution per runway