A "what-if?" strategic-planning tool, intended to enable airline decision-makers to minimise risk by simulating scenarios, has been unveiled by Salisbury, UK-based Landair International.

The Airline Planning Model draws on existing computer models and databases of an airline, from scheduling and fleet planning to maintenance, as well complying with its corporate plan.

These "functional elements" are placed in "hierarchical layers", which "-talk to one another top-down", says Landair marketing manager Michael Leeming. "That's where it's unique-no airline has a strategic tool which centralises so much information".

The central theme of the model is influence diagrams, or "causal trees", for each functional area, such as engineering costs, with links between "objects" representing influence graphically. Typically, 50,000 objects model an airline.

Landair employs consultants within the industry to keep the information on which the model relies up to date. Development for a particular airline takes "around six weeks, including validation using a case-study", says Leeming.

The tool can be used as a training aid, a business game, or for sensitivity analyses to assess the effects of increases in fuel prices, for example, or to indicate the most critical factors for a particular airline and its constituent parts, including lease-versus-purchase decisions for aircraft acquisitions. "It could even give you a match of existing aircraft type for a route or route structure," says Landair project manager Lee Jones.

Flight operations can also be modelled as a functional area, combining factors such as pilot aspirations, age, type-training and so on, with fleet information and corporate goals for new aircraft. "You can put in the flight-ops culture, including the effects of safety and union rules," says Jones.

Leeming says that a single-user licence will typically cost around $100,000. Landair developed a model for peacekeeping in Bosnia and has also developed a model for the British Army's Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopter fleet. Such military applications regularly use 0.5 million objects, says Leeming, who is in "detailed discussions" with three undisclosed major carriers: a private regional, a state national and a Middle East airline he hopes to "sign up" by the end of 1997.o

Source: Flight International