During my last trip to Brazil, I took a couple of weeks off. While spending some time in Rio de Janeiro, I decided to go hang gliding. After all, how dangerous could it be? The day was gorgeous: partly sunny and not too hot. After a bumpy ride through narrow winding roads till the top of Pedra Bonita, there it was: the take-off ramp
It didn’t take long for the butterflies to start flapping their wings in my stomach, but I didn’t back out. There is only one word to describe the sensation: awesome! It’s the closest one can get to knowing how birds feel while in the air. By now, however, you may be wondering what O.R. has to do with this. Take a look at this picture:
That’s the assembly/take-off queue. Pilots join the line in a first-come first-served (FCFS) basis, then start assembling the hang glider (or “wing” as the Brazilians call it), often with extra help. Guess what happens? Assembly speeds vary a lot, and you may be finished before the person in front of you in the queue. With no room to go around, you basically have to wait (and complain).
So here’s one possible solution: leave an open aisle that enables people to access the take-off ramp and assemble the hang gliders to the side of it. When you’re done, just walk to the ramp and go; no need to wait for anyone else. Since everyone has to check-in with a controller, there’s an easy tie-breaking rule: arrival time. From what I heard while waiting for my turn, shorter waiting times would definitely increase the arrival rate and, as a consequence, revenue.
If you have a Facebook account, you can see a video recording of the entire flight here (make sure to see the landing; it’s also very nice).