Operational improvements in air traffic control are expected to be a major contributor to the mitigation of air transportation’s environmental impact. Current legacy systems and procedures limit system efficiency. Introducing new technologies, such as GPS navigation, has the potential to enable significant reductions in aircraft fuel burn and emissions, if advanced control techniques are employed.

Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment operations research

Improving the process efficiency of aircraft departures is a major research area at the Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment. As part of an FAA-funded project, the lab has developed control algorithms that have been shown in field-trials to result in significant fuel savings. This was accomplished by holding aircraft for a short time at their departure gate, instead of letting them form departure queues on the taxiway.

En route weather also has an impact on air transportation efficiency. Suboptimal weather introduces uncertainty in delays and route availability. Our research in this area focuses on reducing this uncertainty and predicting the impact of local weather on the entire network.

Outcomes and applications

The research conducted at the Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment in terms of operations helps to reduce departure queues at airports, to increase fuel efficiency and, consequently, to decrease emissions in terms of air quality, greenhouse gases as well as noise.  By providing performance feedback to air traffic operations personnel at Boston Logan airport based on surface surveillance data, the Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment helps to increase airport operations on a daily basis. Our weather-related research will help the monitoring agencies to make better informed decisions regarding traffic flow management initiatives.

Selected archival publications on ‘Operations’ can be found in the LAE’s Archival Publications Section.