Gatwick Airport is the UK’s second largest airport and the busiest single runway airport in the world. It serves around 200 destinations (more than any other UK airport) in 90 countries for 36 million passengers a year on short and long haul point-to-point services. It is also a major economic driver for the Southeast region, generating around 23,000 on-airport jobs and a further 13,000 jobs through related activities. Gatwick Airport is owned by a group of international investment funds, of which Global Infrastructure Partners is the majority shareholder. Their vision is to compete and grow to become London’s airport of choice.
Gatwick has around 25 percent spare capacity and its passenger numbers are forecast to grow to around 38 million by 2020. Increasing passenger numbers on flights is a key element of the airport achieving its targets for growth going forward. Larger aircrafts are a core part of achieving this goal. To fuel this expansion, Gatwick wanted to build a new £6.4 million pier-served stand to accommodate the Airbus A380, the world’s largest commercial aircraft. The new stand would also offer further opportunities to open new long-haul routes from Gatwick.
In order to accommodate the A380s, Gatwick also needed two gates to operate as one. The flight information display screens (FIDS) at the gates needed to be able to display combined flight information for the A380. To do this Gatwick needed to implement new Dynamic FIDS.
FIDS retrieve information from Gatwick’s core database, which houses the airport’s business-critical information. It was vital that the new solution was secure, highly available and delivered information in real time. Gatwick also wanted to drive the flight information screens automatically from their internal flight information messaging service.
Piksel has been working in close partnership with Gatwick since 2010 and is a preferred supplier.
Piksel designed and developed a system that automatically drives the new dynamic flight information screens in the airport. The solution is a plug-in to EPiServer CMS, which runs the Gatwick website and interacts with Gatwick’s flight information messaging service.
The Gatwick systems publish messages on a regular basis as each flight changes status such as landing, boarding and take off, etc. The system, designed by Piksel, consumes those messages and based on the CMS-driven configuration pushes the updated information to the appropriate set of flight information display screens. It has a fast turnaround time, taking just seconds to process an incoming message and send it out to the relevant screens. The system works on the basis that an administrator can assign screens to the various positions on a numbered gate, such as the gate room entrance or above the entry to the air bridge. Each of the positions can have a different display template to show, for example, an arrow, the gate number or varying levels of flight information such as number, destination, and boarding status. The messages sent from the Gatwick system are then processed and if they relate to the configured gates/screens the information shown on them will be updated.
The FIDS component runs as part of the Gatwick airport website, also hosted by Piksel, in order to take advantage of the highly scalable and available platform. The company currently hosts two EPiServer- based websites for Gatwick (gatwickairport.com, Gatwick Intranet) and P2W on the Piksel private cloud, housed in its Tier 4 data centres. Each is hosted across four environments: production, stage, DR and development. Sufficient headroom (CPU and RAM) is maintained to allow for immediate burst requirements, for
instance during extreme weather conditions. Following any expansion, additional capacity can be provided to ensure headroom is maintained.
Piksel provides a dedicated, proactive application support and software maintenance service. This ensures Gatwick’s applications behave and perform the way they were intended and also ensures there is an experienced team in place to make small enhancements as required. A key element of the service is ensuring swift adaptation of applications to conform to any external changes.
Core Managed Service skills the company provides include: Microsoft .NET, EPiServer, other Microsoft applications, DBA SQL Server, Riverbed Stingray Traffic Management, rewalls, networking and monitoring. We follow ITIL best practices and ensure that no applications (third party or otherwise) get deployed into the live environment until they have been thoroughly tested in the stage environment. Key to success is maintaining good working relationships with the third parties and ensuring that requirements, timescales and constraints are understood up front. Piksel currently works in conjunction with other third parties to bring in solutions for Gatwick including: A2W (P2W) – GEMsoft7, Mobile site – Incentivated, Travel Hub – Merchant Marketing Group. Gatwick is also supported by Piksel’s fully staffed 24/7 Service Desk operation, ensuring rapid response and optimum availability of services.
In stages across the Gatwick estate, with an initial pilot on pier 5 and 6 where it is meeting a key business requirement to support the new Airbus A380.
Piksel continues to provide optimum availability critically during key events such as ash cloud I & II, snow closures, strikes and emergency landings. Although the specification for the environment was 99.95% availability, over the last 18 months Piksel has ensured that it has averaged 99.997%.