November 26, 1958. Air France was getting ready to bring its first jets, the Caravelle followed by the B707s, into service.
An area of revolutionary aircraft and considerable investment. More than ever, their rotation had to be optimized. To this end, the company decided to adopt Operational Research, an imperfect translation of Operation Research, a mathematical discipline - used by the U.S. military during the Normandy D-Day landings - involving modelling complex problems in order to make better decisions. Until then, Air France was using quantitative methods to plan flight or crew rotations. But the creation of a dedicated RO department, centralizing expertise and skills in the discipline, was an important decision. A way of recognizing its pertinence.
An ever-widening scope
On November 26, 1958, the RO department set up at Air France was made up of a dozen engineers. Pioneers, primarily focused on future Caravelle rotations. However, their scope of activity rapidly widened. The methodology was made all the more pertinent by the fact that it worked with increasingly powerful computers. The IT revolution was underway. As early as the 1960s, RO was being applied to flight crew rosters or aircraft maintenance scheduling. In the 1980s, its applications were extended to assigning aircraft to parking stands or ground resource scheduling. RO was then working across the board to optimize daily operations. It currently serves a dozen business sectors, encompassing most of the company’s activity (from ground operations to the customer/digital relationship).