Location Strategy Gets First Class Seating at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

December 13, 2016

LAS Spatially Enables Critical Information for Integrated, Collaborative Airport Management

If you build a room or even a sink at McCarran International Airport (LAS), you had better label it with a location ID. Because at LAS, location comes first—before any asset can get into the airport's databases and begin to be maintained. That means you don't get a key or a leaking faucet work order until someone puts a location ID on your new asset.

"If an asset does not have a location, "ERP/GIS team director Majed Khater said, "one must be added before a work order can be issues."

Khater has championed GIS at LAS since 2000, when the airport hired him as its first GIS expert. Khater committed to showing his colleagues how spatial information could solve their business needs, going so far as to work one-on-one with colleagues in order to meet specific needs with maps. As the GIS team grew, it moved several times—from planning to engineering to information systems and elsewhere—meaning that the team's location strategy gained exposure across the airport. At LAS, the GIS and ERP teams were combined in 2012, when both teams were under the director of aviation. Today, the ERP/GIS team works with the office of the chief financial officer (CFO).

"Almost everybody knows about the GIS team now, and we have great relationships with all [of] our colleagues." Khater said. "Everybody knows they can come to us to fill a need. And when they ask, our answer is always, 'We'll find a way.' Even if it's not perfect, we will find a solution that's better."

Today, Khater's 20-person ERP/GIS team builds in-house GIS solutions for stakeholders across the airport. The individuals meet as a team; listen to needs; and identify the most practical, agile solution.

"Simple is better," Khater said. "That's our philosophy."

Each of the team's GIS applications is accessible via an internal portal, available to all employees from day one. From finding conference rooms to learning how many travelers are estimated to move through a particular gate during a given time window, there's an app for everything.

And the most widely used application, Airport Management System (AMS), spatially optimizes the use of all critical property, leasing, and work order information.


Figure 1: The Airport Management System (AMS) application at McCarron enables all staff to view any assets and attribute data from Maximo—on a map.

Figure 2: AMS lets airport staff access timely information, such as anticipated passenger flow, based on scheduled arrivals and departures. Staff can effectively schedule maintenance around passenger flows to maximize the value of employees' hours. 

AMS is a powerful web based GIS application. It pulls more than 70 different GIS layers into a simple, interactive application.

"The idea behind AMS is to put everything we know about our facility and related data in a single, easy-to-use application," Khater said.

AMS allows access to a wide range of data: the terminal floor plan layout, lease information, details on the occupant and use of each space, concession, operating hours, and more. It provides data related to the airport layout plan, encompassing airfield buildings, taxiways, holding pads, and other assets. Users are able to export data for further analysis and create and annotate simple maps from the application.

"Since this application would be used by most of the airport staff, it was critical for us to keep the interface simple with intuitive search criteria," Khater said.

Staff can use AMS to retrieve basic information such as a space or room number. Furthermore, they can see all spaces used by a specific airline, which enables more complicated queries such as mapping arrivals and departures and estimating the number of passengers arriving at and departing from a specific terminal or gate area, whether or not staff need to see a specific time window. All this is made possible by integrating GIS with the Airport Operational Database (AODB).

"Using this data, custodial staff can adjust their routine bathroom cleaning schedule, for instance, to accommodate—and not interfere with—passenger flow in the terminals," Khater said.

Similar integrations with maintenance and document management systems allow users to search and spatially view maintenance work orders on an interactive map, with capabilities to refine search results based on priority, status, type, craft, and other criteria. A hyperlink takes the user directly to Maximo, the maintenance system.

"Seeing requested work on a map allows maintenance supervisors the capabilities to sequence and group work in a more efficient way to minimize travel time between work locations," Khater said.

Integration with document management systems allows users to display and access all construction record drawings related to a specific location.

"Our goal is to continuously enhance our customers' experience by introducing new GIS functionality to allow staff to do their job better. To do that, we engage the end users in the process of building the solution," Khater said.

Dynamic Gate Assignment

Khater's team built a GIS application that consumes CAD drawings created by the engineers who are responsible for configuring the gates to accommodate specific aircraft types while highlighting the impact/limitation on the adjacent gates.

"We worked with the engineers to standardize the CAD files, in terms of layers' structure and naming conventions, to make sure we don't have to manipulate or change the design data and [to] avoid any risk of introducing errors to such critical functions. Two aircraft clipping wings on the ramp would result in serious consequences, so this helps to avoid such consequences," Khater said.

Figure 3: Gate Assignment displays critical and timely flight information, so operators can easily and flexibly assign aircraft to appropriate structures with just a few clicks. 

Figure 4: With access to flight information and gate restrictions through the Gate Assignment web application, air traffic controllers can easily and quickly assign craft to appropriate gates. 

The Gate Assignment application looks and feels like the AMS in order to provide a similar customer experience. Users can drill down and select a specific gate. They will be presented with a drop-down list of allowed aircraft, and the aircraft they select will be drawn on the gate accurately. If there are aircraft parked at the adjacent gates, any conflict will be visible, prompting the user to look for another gate to accommodate the flight at hand. In the same way, the application manages parking aircraft in holding pads.

In addition to standard aircraft accommodation, the application can be used as a planning tool for what-if scenarios or in case of emergencies. For instance, users can quickly find any available gate that can accommodate a specific aircraft type. In the past, ramp control staff would consult a several-inches-thick, hard-copy book of CAD drawings containing every possible aircraft scenario and restriction per gate. The application totally digitizes and speeds up the process.

Integrating the Gate Assignment application with the flight information data in the AODB allows the user to quickly map current gate utilization based on the planned gate information provided in flight information data. In addition, the user can map the gate utilization based on a specific time window in the future, such as the next 24 hours.

Ultimately, the dynamics of both the AMS and Gate Assignment applications streamline airport coordination, operations scheduling, and execution of maintenance work, thanks to better and easier analysis of gate utilization and passenger flow in the terminal.

A Long-Term Vision for Airport Management

LAS moves more than 48 million passengers per year. In addition to the AMS and Gate Assignment applications, the airport has built a variety of more focused GIS applications to streamline day-to-day operations.

One of these is the Integrated McCarran Airport Planning System (IMAPS), which makes it easy to comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) noise and airspace regulations. IMAPS keeps a full historic record of noise complaints, including a spatial view to see where the most complaints come from and caller information. The planning department uses this to complete FAA land-use forms and to ascertain compliance adherence, including seeing that minimum and maximum aircraft elevation regulations are followed. 

Figure 5: With the Integrated McCarran Airport Planning System (IMAPS) application, airport staff can document and track noise complaints in one location. IMAPS streamlines compliance reporting and helps airport staff spot trends in noise complaints. 

Khater's team also built the Terminal Operations Management System (TOMS) to streamline routine services, such as chair cleanings and carpet vacuuming, that don't fall under work orders. TOMS lets managers query job statuses (e.g., requested, scheduled, completed) and schedule staff efficiently. An annotation section lets managers audit performance quality and address issues.

A third application, Master Utility Viewer (MUV), ensures that digging projects don't disrupt underground assets. Each time an underground installation is completed, the as-built drawings will be processed by the GIS staff to update MUV. Project managers can access specific areas on the map and pull up PDFs, CAD drawings, and field photos related to a location or a project. In this way, utility information can be shared across the company to protect underground assets.

Figure 6: The Master Utility Viewer (MUV) application enables airport workers to see what lies below ground before digging so that projects don't encounter unseen obstacles. 

Figure 7: Field crews access the Master Utility Viewer application from field devices. With access to mapped underground infrastructure and photos, they can see in detail the underground environment in which they may be working. 

"There's so much that goes on at an airport that you don't see as a passenger," Khater said.

But there is an app that passengers can use at LAS. McCarran.com has a public wayfinding map, so travelers can preplan based on which concessions and facilities will be available in their terminal during their stay at the airport. The ability to preplan is Khater's goal for location strategy at LAS.

"The best way to have a long-term GIS is by having a vision," Khater said. 


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