Computer simulations produce superior airplane-loading systems

Airlines have employed computer simulations to come up with a variety of counterintuitive super-efficient ways of boarding airplanes, with names like "Reverse Pyramid" and "WilMA." These systems promise to reduce turn-around significantly. I hope that the next target will be improving the debarking process, which always seems to be the longest 10 minutes of the flight.

Villalobos and van den Briel presented America West with a boarding approach called the reverse pyramid that calls for simultaneously loading an aircraft from back to front and outside in. Window and middle passengers near the back of the plane board first; those with aisle seats near the front are called last. "Our research showed that this method created the fewest incidents of interference between passengers," Villalobos explains, "and was therefore the fastest."

US Airways' Lindemann says the airline has enjoyed significant improvements since implementing the reverse pyramid in 2003, including a 21 percent decrease in departure delays in the first three months following the system's launch, and a two-minute reduction in average boarding time.