Aircraft, network, and zoology

It is well known that the problem of building a schedule plan for an airline is a difficult one. The core difficulty is indeed to take into accounts the multiple constraints of aircraft, crew, maintenance, passenger correspondence etc, while trying to capture as much market as possible, all with minimum expenses. It is similar to riding a bike... except you do not know who is riding, where the wheels are, where you are supposed to go and if you should buy a car instead.

One of the most important constraints is the aircraft, since:

  • it is impossible to fly without it (rockets are quite unsafe to land at airports),
  • it is quite expensive (I've been told).

Let's imagine that, as an airline, you roughly know what cities you want to connect and how many passengers should travel with you. Where should your existing aircraft fly? Should you buy one? Do you have different strategies if you are a low-cost carriers or a traditional one? This is roughly the answers that our agents are trying to answer in the second block of our Vista model, the "schedule mapper". Of course, since our model simulates all the airlines in Europe, we cannot dedicate as much time (real and computational) as airlines do in reality to their schedule plan. But, like for the other parts of Vista, we are trying to catch to main behaviours of the system.

As usual, we start from what we can observe from data. For instance, it is common to say that aircraft usually go back and forth, and that some of them do sometimes triangular flights. Is that true? To investigate this, we take a three days time window where we track the itineraries of aircraft in terms of airports, defined as "patterns", using DDR data. What kind of patterns 'live' in this environment? How to classify them?

First, like taxonomists do not care about the specifics of a single individual to make a classification, we should not take into account the details of the patterns to classify them (in fact, that's the definition of a classification...). So for instance Rome - Paris - Rome has the same pattern than Frankfurt - London - Frankfurt, which can be rewritten 1 - 2 - 1 for instance. If a specific sequence is an individual in zoology, a pattern is thus akin to a taxon.

We can roughly divide these taxons into two "reigns": the ones which are closed (more explicitly have at least one closed loop), and the rest. For instance, an aircraft doing Paris - Frankfurt - Rome - Paris - Rome - Paris in three days has a closed pattern, whereas an aircraft doing Rome - Madrid - Barcelona is open. Of course, in the long run, most of aircraft do at least one full loop, but in three days some of them cannot make it. However, when counted in number of flights, most of them are closed in 3 days already, as shown in the figure below. In the following, we focus only on these closed taxons. Pretty much like one could focus on a study on mammals for instance, except that in this case, the mammals represent most of the animal kingdom.

Among them, some are more elemental than others, in the sense that they cannot be constructed from their peers. These are the ones which have exactly one closed loops. The ones present in the data are represented in the figure below, with their frequency of appearance (the number n corresponds to the number of airports in the loop). Most of them are single returns (1 - 2 - 1), triangular flights (1 - 2 - 3 - 1), and rectangular flights (1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 1), and we focus on these three ones in the following. Note that rectangular flights seem more frequent than triangular ones, perhaps contrary to the popular belief.

All the other patterns can be constructed from these elementary ones, and we name them 'combined' patterns. For instance, (1 - 2 - 1 - 2 - 1) is composed of two single back and forth. In terms of zoology, it is a bit like saying that an elephant can be obtained by gluing a snake to a hippopotamus. Or that a giraffe is really nothing more that a horse with a periscope in the throat, which personally I believe very much. In any case, it easy to plot the frequency of appearance of these combined taxons, as shown in the figure below. Since all of them are coming from three taxons, we use notation the (X, Y, Z), where e.g. (2, 0, 0) represents two returns, (1, 1, 1), a return, a triangular flight and a rectangular one, etc. Some very rare patterns have been omitted in the figure. As expected from the previous figure, most of the aircraft goes back and forth during the three days. It is interesting to see that triangular flights are very under-represented, and that it is more frequent to have a rectangular flights every now and then, in combination with returns. Note that when a pattern features several returns, it is not necessarily between the same airports (e.g. Warsaw - Oslo - Warsaw - Vienna - Warsaw). In fact, we found that most of the combined patterns are 'impure', i.e. they are composed of elementary patterns with different airports (like gluing two birds of different colours for instance).

What does Vista do with this freak zoo? Well, the way the airlines choose implicitly the different patterns is a complex procedure, driven by the different constraints cited above. So the idea is that the best patterns should be selected for their efficiency, much like some taxons are selected by evolution based on their fitness in the given environment. Each taxon has also some particularities. For instance, flights using the taxon (4, 0, 1) mainly departs (from their first airport) in the early morning,  whereas taxons (2, 0, 0) are used by flights departing more frequently in the late morning, and sometimes in the evening, as shown in the figure below. Other regularities can be found in terms of average turn-around times for instance.

In the model, we use all these data to build reasonable schedules by resampling the different taxons for each airline. This will be described in a later blog post. And no more weird animal crossings, we swear!

ANSPs, how changes on fuel price affect your airspace revenues?

AUTHOR: Luis Delgado

Vista allows to analyse complex scenarios with interactions between metrics of different stakeholders.

Flight plan generation and route selection

When airlines select their flight plans between a given origin and destination many different factors need to be considered, such as possible routes available, weather, aircraft performance or time required. Vista uses a data-driven approach analysing historical flight plans, routes between airports and aircraft performances to estimate the cost of operating those different routes.

As shown in the above diagram, the historical analysis of data allow us to generate a pool of two dimensional routes, probability distributions for cruise wind, speed and flight level request and length and duration of climb and descent phases. With this information, for each possible route we can estimate the 4D trajectories that the airline will plan and estimate the total operating cost of these possibilities.

A given flight will, of course, follow only one of the possibilities, so at pre-tactical level, the different flight plans options are prioritised considering their expected direct operating costs (as a function of flight time, fuel and en-route airspace charges). This selection is not deterministic as airlines not always will follow the apparent lest cost route and in Vista we are interested on reproducing realistic flight plan selections options, not the best option!


What if we change the cost of fuel?

Vista is a great tool to analyse the impact of changes of parameters such as fuel cost on the behaviour of the stakeholders in the system. In some areas of Europe, airlines face the possibility of selecting different routes which might incur on different airspace en-route charges and different fuel consumptions and flying time. This leads to trade-offs that can be captured by Vista. An example of one of those regions is western Europe and flights to-from the UK and the Canary Islands. As shown in this image, airlines can select more direct routes using the airspace of France, Spain and Portugal or operate longer routes which benefit from the low airspace usage cost of the Oceanic airspace.

The trade-offs between different metrics for the airlines can be explicitly computed by Vista as shown in the image below for different fuel price scenarios. With higher fuel cost, shorter routes tend to be selected leading to lower fuel usage but higher airspace en-route charges.

As Vista considers multiple stakeholders it is possible to assess the impact of these changes on the demand and expected revenue obtained by the different ANSPs as shown in the following images:

Expected revenue due to en-route charges variation for GCTS - EGKK flights

Expected revenue due to en-route charges variation for all of ECAC flights

The figure above shows the expected changes on revenues for the different ANSPs across Europe if changes of fuel price are produced. This illustrates how different parameters are interconnected for different stakeholders in subtle manners that can be captured by Vista: changes on fuel prices represent variations on routes preferences which might have an impact on airspace usage and revenues of the ANSPs!

The new report to the Club of Rome: Come On!

The human footprint is increasing fast and will —if not reversed— eventually lead to a collapse of the global economy. So say the authors of the new book Come On! which proposes an overhaul in the way that governments, businesses, financial systems, innovators and families interact with our planet.



About the book Come On!

About the Club of Rome

Now, in cooperation with more than 30 members from the Club of Rome, authors Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Anders Wijkman, co-presidents of the Club, suggest possible solutions to the global ecological and social crises. At the core is the suggestion to develop a new Enlightenment for a "Full World": we can no longer depend on a societal model that was developed for a world of less than one billion people.

Humans and farm animals constitute 97 percent of the bodyweight of all living land vertebrates on earth so it’s not surprising that the remaining 3 percent of wildlife struggles to compete for land and for survival. Alongside an environmental crisis are social, political and moral crises. Billions of people no longer put trust in their governments, poverty has deepened in many countries, in the US the middle-class is rapidly shrinking.

Measuring our success on GDP growth has proven inadequate to the task and it also masks a growth in inequality between rich and poor. New indicators such as a Genuine Progress Indicator could more accurately measure economic welfare.

The present model of development is seriously flawed. Profit maximization – under the principle of shareholder value first – and saving the planet are inherently in conflict. The new Enlightenment must be characterized by a vastly improved balance between humans and nature, between markets and the law, between private consumption and public goods, between short-term and long term thinking, between social justice and incentives for excellence.

Carlos Alvarez Pereira (President of Innaxis and member of the Club of Rome) contributed to the report with a chapter on the Digital Revolution, highlighting that advances in technology will be crucial in order to cope with environmental degradation. However technological disruption must be analyzed beyond the current hype that digitization is clean and exponentially opening up new possibilities. Instead the effects on resources depletion, climate change, and employment have to be carefully considered and addressed for a true sustainable and inclusive technological disruption.

This book comprises many practical examples, success stories and opportunities for the “Full World”. A move towards a circular economy can help overcome mineral scarcity, significantly lower carbon emissions and increase the number of jobs. Regenerative agriculture will help stop soil erosion, enhance yields and build carbon in the soil. Efforts have to be made to rein in the financial sector by increasing capital reserves and control of money creation. Some insights can come from the Hopi tradition in North America, which developed sustainable agriculture and maintained a stable population size while avoiding wars.

Civil society, the communities of investors, and the research and education communities should become strong players in the necessary transformation.


SafeClouds presentation at the IATA ADS

On November 15-16, 2017, IATA organised the first Aviation Data Symposium in Miami, FL USA. This event covered different angles of the application of engineering and data analytics to airline safety, operations, passenger distribution, sales, and air freight. These three areas were complemented by a technology track, which covered techniques and tools to support data activities in airlines. The safety and operation tracks discussed how big data is helping airlines to optimise operations while maintaining safety, and also presenting the upcoming main challenges.

The event also covered a review of the benefits from the various global information sharing and exchange networks, including the Global Aviation Data Management programmes coordinated by IATA. During the Symposium, Mr. Quevedo presented IATA data connect, the database of aviation accidents, IATA FDX, the GDDB and STEADES. ASIAS, the US data exchange programme was also presented by Mr. Madar, Managing Director of Operation Safety of American Airlines. Then, Mr. Hernández-Coronado, Director of Safety Analysis and QM of the Spanish Aviation and Security Agency (AESA) presented the European programme Data4Safety, that was recently launched by EASA in Europe.

Concerns regarding privacy remain very strong, as often, the privacy protocols are strict and de-identification could make data challenging to use, as explained by the programme representatives. Mr. Madar stressed new techniques and technologies that allow to progress on data privacy, together with new tools that allow to move from descriptive to predictive technologies, like machine learning, as an area that will help the programmes evolve, as the descriptive analysis done in the last decade, as done with ASIAS.

Mr. Hernández-Coronado presented SafeClouds in detail. AESA participates in the SafeClouds project and helps the team understand how different technologies researched in the project can help aviation data exchange programmes overcome some of the presented challenges. These challenges include data fusion and integration, data protection and privacy, and computing infrastructures. SafeClouds also investigates predictive analytic concepts and techniques to help aviation stakeholders make decisions, even during the operations.

Mr. Hérnandez-Coronado also covered the activities performed by the Spanish Aviation and Security Agency, particularly the Spanish SSP, State Safety Programme. This system receives and collects around 300-400 safety events per week. He also presented the RIMAS system, showing the capability of providing a complete risk assessment picture of the national safety status by combining a variety of data sources; ultimately providing analytical support for AESA so that they may focus their attention on those areas that require supervision.

Web Summit 2017


We are pleased to announce that Carlos Alvarez Pereira (President of Innaxis) will be participating as a speaker at the Web Summit taking place 6th-9th November 2017 in Lisbon.

The Web Summit is dedicated to connecting the technology community with a range of people from across the global technology industry, as well as with politicians, scientists and influencers. The Web Summit has grown to become the “largest technology conference in the world” with more than 6000 attendees participating this year.


Carlos will participate at the panel discussion ”Reducing carbon-intensive activity: Will we always have Paris?” on 8th November.

Other panelists will include Javier Garcia-Martinez (University of Alicante), Mohan Munasinghe (Planetiers), Femke Groothuis, (The Ex’tax Project) and Michael Kuhndt (Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production). The panel discussion will be moderated by Sam Geall (China Dialogue).

The panel will investigate the challenge of how to ensure the success of the Paris Climate Agreement, and how to effectively reduce carbon emissions when it conflicts with business interests. Incentives and strategies will be examined in order to re-align business interests with the urgent humanitarian need to address climate change and its disastrous consequences. For this, the role of behavioral change, technologies, political and economic incentives will be part of the discussion

Engaging with a new generation of change makers


Considering the intricate challenges humanity has to face such as climate change, social inequalities, migration, and technological disruption (just to name a few), we are in desperate need for a new generation of changemakers who are able to grasp the systemic and interconnected nature of the issues in order to design innovative approaches that overcome today’s barriers to change.

INX4PS is actively seeking to promote systems literacy and to engage with a new generation of changemakers to raise awareness as to how complex issues can be embraced.

In this context, INX4PS has participated at the first Club of Rome (CoR) Summer Academy, which took place 7th-13th 2017 September in Florence, Italy.


The Club of Rome is an eminent international think tank that launched in 2016 with the “Reclaim Economics” project, designed to transform the way our economic system is perceived and understood. It promotes new economic thinking that puts human well-being and the planet at the centre. The Reclaim Economics flagship event was the first Club of Rome Summer Academy in Florence.

The CoR Summer Academy has been attended by students and academics, young professionals, aspiring entrepreneurs, young journalists, artists and activists. The participants joined with some of the world’s leading social and systems thinkers to inspire economic, ecological, and political movements towards action.

Carlos Alvarez Pereira (President of Innaxis and member of the Club of Rome) gave insights on the issue of  “TECH FOR HUMANITY – REFLECTIONS ON THE TECHNOLOGY REVOLUTION”.

During the interactive dialogue with the Summer School participants, many items were discussed including the role of science and technology and its impact on social evolution, the consequences on sustainable development, and furthermore the meaning of “technological disruption”.

The core theme of the debate was the role of current mindsets which largely influences technological innovation outcomes, including how well society adapts and integrates these new technologies. Additionally, questions of technology’s overall purpose, and how to design technology while ensuring humanity is the beneficiary, spurred a dynamic discussion among the participants.

The event was attended by 120 participants from 25 different countries. Among the speakers included: Kate Pickett, Kate Raworth, Anders Wijkman, Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Mathis Wackernagel, Ugo Bardi, Jorgen Randers, Tim Jackson and many more who discussed challenges and proposals for addressing systemic challenges.

INX4PS is looking forward to further engaging with the new generation of changemakers, to introduce systems thinking, and to co-create the paradigm shift of the 21st century.

ISSS 2017


“From Science to Systemic Solutions – Systems Thinking for Everyone”
ISSS2017 Vienna
The 61st ISSS World Conference

As systems sciences has been a heterodox scientific field, the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS) aims to bring a community of researchers and practitioners together once a year, during the ISSS World Conference, to exchange and share ideas related to systems sciences.

The founding fathers of the society, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Kenneth Boulding, Ralph Gerard, and Anatol Rapoport, conceived the organization to be devoted to interdisciplinary inquiry into the nature of complex systems. In recent years the organization has broadened its scope, particularly to include the practical application of systems methodologies to problem solving.

Considering this, the 2017 edition convened by the Ludwig von Bertalanffy Centre in Vienna invited an interdisciplinary community to share the latest insights of the interdependencies between social, ecological and technological systems, as well as practical design skills for sustainable living and technologies for a future-oriented humanity.

INX4PS participated in past conferences and was invited to participate in ISSS2017 through a panel discussion deliberating the theme “From Money to Value Creation to Reinventing Economy in the Energy Transition”. Joséphine vMitschke-Collande represented INX4PS and discussed with Dr. Olaf Brugman (Rabobank), Christoph Thun-Hohenstein (Museum für angewandte Kunst), Roland Kuras (Power Solution), Ladeja Godina Košir (Circular Change) the role of systems approaches regarding sustainable finance, the energy transition, the circular economy and the arts.

Issues such as the lack of systems approaches in the design of the German Energy Transition, does not foresee how to overcome current self-referential economic dynamics. The current system favors grand energy infrastructure investments, instead of a decentralized and low-cost prosumer approach capable of integrating new technological developments quicker. These are a obstacles in making the Energy Transition efficient.

Furthermore, emerging economic approaches such as the Circular Economy, and in particular the narrative in which they are embedded, were discussed. The panelist deliberated how the Circular Economy has to break-out of an engineering and material closed-loop approach, and instead integrate a whole systems perspective, such as integrating social innovation aspects in order to enable a Circular Economy system which will ensure the sustainability of initiative success.

Systems sciences have fallen into oblivion in the past decades and only recently have regained ground for being a powerful tool to navigate the complexity of current challenges. With that, the need of a reinvigorated systems sciences community is crucial to guarantee knowledge and idea exchanges regarding methodological and theoretical approaches, as well as practical applications. INX4P looks forward to future exchanges with the community.

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