Sun Times v7.0 - AVIATION MENU

1) Airline Timetables and routes

Timetable information included in the examples and screenshots here is for Aug 2007. The data is derived from an analysis of a number of sources such as airline and global alliance timetables and airport websites. Only non-stop flights are included, hence a flight from Sydney to Frankfurt via a stop in Singapore is represented as two flights in Sun Times, possibly with the same flight number. The flight number associated with each flight is that of the airline which actually operates the flight (ie not the codeshare flight numbers). However, some codeshare flight numbers are included where I have not been able to easily find timetable information for the operating airline. Care has been taken to avoid including the same flight twice (the same flight may sometimes have up to 10 different flight numbers published in different airline timetables, some of which may mis-report the scheduled departure or arrival time of the flight!)

i) Plot flight positions

To plot flight positions at a certain time, first change the main Sun Times date and time to be within the month that you have data for (eg Jan 2008), (do this in the area to the left of the world icon at the top of the screen), and click the REFRESH button. The time entered is assumed to be a GMT date and time. Eastbound flights are shown as red squares, westbound as blue. Moving the mouse over the small squares on the map will result in additional information being drawn and displayed on each flight.

You can then choose various options using drop-down lists to limit the number of flights to be displayed, eg choose an airline, and country of <International Only> to show current non-domestic flights for that airline. After choosing a time and filter options, click the REFRESH button to re-display the current flights which meet your filter criteria.

Below is a custom map, which is created by left clicking on the main map and dragging the mouse. Moving the mouse over flights on either the main or custom map shows the Great Circle route between the departure and arrival airport, together with a box showing the departure and destination IATA airport codes.

Flight progress along the Great Circle flight path is calculated assuming departure and arrival happens as scheduled in the airlines' timetables. Allowances are then made by Sun Times for typical times spent taxiing, climbing to reach cruising height, in arrival manoeuvring, and time in cruise at an implied cruising ground speed. Allowances are not made by Sun Times for extra time spent as a result of airport or air traffic control delays at certain times of day - this is assumed to be accounted for in the schedules published by airlines. Further, no consideration is given to average variations in jetstream speeds over the course of a flight, or typical deviations flown from a Great Circle routing according to average prevailing winds.

ii) Show routes

This displays the route network for the chosen filter criteria in the drop-down lists. It doesn't matter which date is currently shown at the top of the screen - only routes that were timetabled in Jan 2008 (or whatever period you have data for) will be displayed. Click the REFRESH button to show the routes when you have selected filter criteria. For example, some of the route network of Royal Brunei Airlines is shown below:

Moving the mouse over airports on the map will highlight in red all the routes from that airport and show the average number of flights flown per day along these routes. It will also bring up an "Airport Routes" window which details all the routes to/from the current airport. This can be useful when looking at airline operations from hubs. To freeze the Airport Routes display on a chosen airport, right-click before moving the mouse away from the selected airport. The columns in the Airport Routes window can be sorted by clicking on the column headings.

In the above example, in Aug 2007, Royal Brunei Airlines flies 24.3 flights per day on average along 20 routes into/out of Bandar Seri Begawan (BWN), ie 24.3 flights is a combined total of departures and arrivals at BWN. There's a total of almost 28 flights per day on average flown by the airline, so about 3 or 4 Royal Brunei flights per day must be between two airports other than BWN. A more detailed breakdown of the routes for BWN is shown in the Airport Routes screen. Passenger (Pax) numbers per day circled are calculated using typical airline seating configurations and seat occupancy.

The row highlighted in blue shows that there were 1.7 flights per day on average flown by Royal Brunei between Bandar Seri Begawan and Kota Kinabalu, carrying an average of 162 passengers each way. Over August 2007, three aircraft types were used on this route, an Airbus 320-100/200 and Airbus 319, and a Boeing 767-300. The 1.7 flights per day actually equates to there being 5 days per week with 2 flights, and 2 days with only 1 flight.

iii) Departure and arrival boards

Again, this is based on the chosen filter criteria. In this example, I have filtered to show only flights flown by Royal Brunei Airlines again. I have also changed the text entry boxes at the top of the Flight Departures and Arrivals screen from their default values to show flights starting at 0 hours ago and finishing 24 hours ahead of the starting time of 15 Aug 2007 16:00 GMT. I then clicked on the "Time as entered - REFRESH" button.

This is a more complicated departure board than shown at a particular airport. It shows all departing flights flown by Royal Brunei, irrespective of the departure airports. The Dep Time column is shown as local time, but the rows are sorted in order of the equivalent GMT time. Hence the 04:45+1 DXB departure (00:45+1 GMT), happens 1 hour after the 07:45+1 KUL departure (23:45 GMT). The +1 is used to indicate that the departure happens when the GMT date is 16 Aug 2007, ie +1 days forward from the starting GMT date of 15 Aug 2007.

The following example shows all early morning International flights departing and arriving in Australia (ie setting the "Between Country" drop-down list filter as Australia and "And Country" as "<International Only>"). This time I have left the default starting threshold to be half an hour before and the ending threshold to be 4 hours in the future.

iv) Schedules

This screen works in a similar way to the Departure and arrival boards, and can show schedules on a weekly basis or monthly basis. Clicking the column headers for the day of the week or the day of the month, will sort rows such that the flights that are scheduled to operate on that day will be grouped together at the top.

v) Traffic (cruising)

Choosing this option will only consider flights outside their normal departure and arrival phases, which will therefore be likely to be in upper air corridors. The map shows colour coding according to the density of flights in each sampled square on the map. Flights are shown in their timetabled positions, along Great Circle routes, ie no allowance is made for air traffic control congestion avoidance strategies, or longer routings to fly with advantageous weather conditions. The traffic density map is therefore best seen as a map of idealised upper airspace demand at particular times of day. For example, at 17:00 GMT on the 17th Aug 2007 there is heaviest demand over the English Channel, and in the vicinity of Boston-New York-Washington, Chicago and Atlanta.

When traffic density is displayed on custom maps, (left-click and drag on the main map to create a custom map), additional options are available. There are options to change the sampling square size and to change the colour intensity (the slider controls circled at the bottom).

Moving the mouse over any of the maps will display the actual number of flights in the sampling square (together with the square size). The colours shown are based on the adjusted flight density square. In this example there are 20 flights cruising to the east of the Belgian/German border in a 73 by 88 nautical mile area, which is equivalent to 44.8 flights in a 120 by 120 nautical mile area (a 120 by 120 nautical mile square is equal to a two degree square at the equator in latitude and longitude)

2) Animation

The views of 1 i) Plot flight positions and 1 v) Traffic (cruising) can be animated by clicking on the play button shown below. The animation speed (which defaults to 3 minute increments) can be altered using the slider control to the right. Views on both the main map and custom maps can be animated in this way. The current time in the animation sequence is circled towards the left.

The same two views of current flight positions and cruising traffic density can also be manually changed in time using the arrows circled below. One click advances or goes back 3 minutes. Going forward in time is computed much more quickly than backwards. Clicking the clock button refreshes the view based on the current computer time.

The two views can be displayed for any time (within the timetabled information included in SunTimes) by changing the main SunTimes time (immediately below the main menus at the top right of the screen), and then clicking the REFRESH button

3) Flight Plotter

This allows a particular flight to be charted on the world or custom maps. The route is assumed to be a Great Circle route between the departure and arrival airport. Some example flights are included in Sun Times - a summer over-night flight with a 40 minute long grazing sunset from London to Tokyo is shown below (choose from the Saved Itineraries drop-down list). Clicking the Plot itinerary button will draw the route on the map and moving the progress slider control (circled top right) will move the flight along its route. The Dep Time and Arr Time boxes are entered as local times at the origin and destination. The Dep min value is the length of time taken to reach cruising speed in the initial phase of the flight. The Arr min value is the corresponding time taken in the arrival phase of the flight, after the cruising phase is over. The value in the Jetstream box (km/h) is an adjustment made for wind-speed, and is calculated automatically based on some assumptions about how far the flight is likely to travel during the Dep min and Arr min times entered (together with the time spent at the cruising speed). It would be normal to expect westbound flights to have an average jetstream value of less than zero (ie a headwind), whereas eastbound flights would normally have a positive jetstream value (ie a tailwind). Normally, you would simply enter the departure and arrival times as scheduled, the aircraft type, and adjust the Dep min and Arr mins to give a jetstream value close to zero. It would be realistic to increase the Arr min or Dep min values when using busy airports at peak times, and maybe decrease them for less busy airports, or short haul flights with smaller aircraft.

As noted above, this flight, although a night flight from London to Tokyo, has been chosen to demonstrate that it is possible to fly through the night from London to Tokyo in summer keeping (at least some of) the sun above the horizon. The sun's elevation at a particular point in the flight is shown below circled, and the four closest locations are shown in the drawn rectangle.