Archive for March, 2010

Part 1 of 2 – Airspace and Procedures at the JPDO

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

by Diana Khera

 There are multiple working groups and divisions under the JPDO that work on topics related to airspace and procedures. There are two conceptual efforts that I would like to introduce to you; Trajectory Based Operations, and Flight Prioritization Alternatives for Super Density Operations.

Trajectory Based Operations is the fundamental premise behind far-term NextGen improvement and it refers to strategic and tactical flight planning and gate-to-gate traffic management,  Trajectory Based Operations represents a shift from clearance-based to 4DT trajectory  based control.  The 4DT refers to the lat/long, speed and intent (or time) components of flight planning.  A major benefit of 4DT is that it enables service providers and operators to assess the effects of proposed trajectories and resource allocation plans (including airspace availability), allowing both service providers and operators to understand the implications of existing demand and  to identify where constraints need further mitigation.

In simple terms, TBO is final, most comprehensive, far-term phase of the FAA’s Big Airspace concept;  so, what is the problem that this concept is designed to fix? The partitioning of current airspace into sectors is largely based on controller workload limitations .  Automated separation assurance which is a part of the Trajectory Based Operations Concept  will remove the workload limitations.  In addition, some structural elements of airspace such as fixes and routes, which help controllers anticipate conflicts, may not be necessary.  TBO will also create airspace flexibility, which does not exist currently due to the lack of decision support tools, and coverage limitations of both radio communications and radar.  The flexible airspace that will be necessary to support TBO will also help elevate the problem of uniform demand and under-utilized controller resources. Several concepts are on the drawing boards for the TBO concept– from the more common ideas of corridors-in-the-sky through concepts for segregating traffic according to air traffic control category to finally the most ambitious and least defined concepts for large scale dynamic resectorization.    The dynamic resectorization shows  great amount of potential but great amounts of work is still needed by the JPDO, NASA, FAA and others in order to define the concept and prove operational feasibility. 

As you can imagine, the TBO is a very complex concept and it involves changes in technologies , procedures, and policies. Some basic features of the TBO concept are: 1) trajectories are prenegotiated gate-to-gate, but are also tactically managed – this implies very high level of automation; 2) level of required aircraft performance will be driven by demands vs capacity; 3) user access priority still needs to be determined but we are reasonability sure by now that it will not be first come first serve; 4) some airspace may be exclusionary to trajectory based operations (especially at high altitude and/or super density areas).

Part 2, on super density, will follow soon – so stay tuned!

Two Articles in ACC Publication

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

by Diana Khera

“The implementation of new Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) routes and procedures will lead to enhancements in the use of airspace, resulting in increased safety, efficiency and environmental benefits. The latest version of FAA’s NextGen Implementation Plan will provide additional detail and clarity on these near-term applications. But what about longer-term NextGen initiatives and what will they mean for airport facilities?”

The latest ACC ConsultingMagazine, a quarterly publication, has an article by me on airport-related far–term NextGen initiatives (excerpted above).  There is also a ‘real-life application’ story by Bob Miller that follows the article.  The magazine and articles are posted online here.

Report from UC Davis

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I attended the UC Davis ‘Eco-Aerovision’ Symposium in San Diego this week.  The symposium was created 25 years ago to provide a forum for California airport noise officers to share ideas, challenges, and war stories.  Over the years, the symposium has gone through significant transformation, and is now an annual international gathering of airport staff, community members, operators, land use planners, regulators, manufacturers, and academics to collaborate on a range of environmental topics that stymie airports, including noise, air quality, and climate.

Navigating Sustainability

Navigating Sustainability

I would say that there were two general themes that were reinforced throughout the conference:

  • First, we have been at this (noise challenge) for a long time, and it’s probably fair to say that there’s not much “low hanging fruit” left.  This suggests that the challenges that remain are difficult, and will continue to get even more so.  Several sessions supported this theme, including a discussion of Noise Beyond DNL 65, facilitated by Jessica Steinhilber of ACI-NA and Dan Frazee of San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
  • Second, that addressing noise issues at airport is a very long term prospect.  Two good examples were provided by Flavio Leo of Massport and Mary McCarthy, who talked about the 32-year history of building a new runway at Boston-Logan International Airport, and 14 recent legal challenges to the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Airspace Redesign.  Ultimately, it seems, runways will be built and airspace will be re-designed to suit more efficient air travel (the FAA’s 20-0 track record on significant NEPA challenges was touted by Ted Boling of CEQ during his keynote address).  Our challenge it seems, is to make the process be as transparent, honest, and fair to airport neighbors as possible.

To that end, the FAA’s Office of Aviation Policy, Planning & Environment conducted its final workshop supporting development of a Noise Research Roadmap.  Like the symposium, this day-long session was an honest and far-ranging discussion of research needs to advance our understanding of noise issues and to identify “actionable hypotheses” and research projects that could be conducted to accomplish those goals.

Finally, at the risk of narcissism, I was humbled (and COMPLETELY STUNNED) to receive the 2010 Walt Gillfillan Award for “exemplary work addressing the challenges of reducing the environmental impacts of aviation”.  Many thanks to those who found me deserving of the nomination.