Airport Surface Movement Optimization

Project Number: 016  COMPLETE
Category: Operations

This project will evaluate surface congestion management techniques at airports. Surface congestion at major airports in the United States is responsible for increased taxi-out times, fuel burn, and emissions. This research will determine if different management techniques can be effective at mitigating this congestion and other operation inefficiencies.

As part of this research, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology undertook an initial assessment of the applicability and benefits of “light weight” airport-wide surface management control concepts, which involve minimal levels of automation to complement other Federal Aviation Administration management programs. This involved defining and modeling these control schemes, field demonstrations at the Boston Logan International airport, and evaluating performance in terms of impacts on taxi time, fuel burn, and environmental emissions.

Figure 1

During 15 four-hour tests conducted during the summers of 2010 and 2011:

  • Fuel use was reduced by an estimated 23-25 U.S. tons or 6,600-7,300 U.S. gallons, while carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by an estimated 71-79 U.S. tons.
  • The average gate-hold time was 4.7 min.
  • The total taxi-out time reduction was 29.4 hours over the 391 flights that were held at the gate,
  • And the fuel savings was estimated to be 52-58 kg per gate-held flight.

In addition to these savings achieved during field trials, many important lessons were learned regarding operational implementation of surface management techniques in both nominal and off-nominal conditions.

Figure 2

Departure metering is one, albeit important, element of a surface congestion management tool suite. Other elements include airport configuration management, taxi routing, runway assignment, runway sequencing and scheduling, departure route assurance, and more. Effective surface congestion management requires these elements to coordinate and be seamlessly integrated with each other.

The current focus of this project is therefore to investigate how departure metering strategies, such as N-Control and Pushback Rate Control, can coordinate with and help inform broader surface management programs, such as the Terminal Flight Data Manager/TFDM and Surface Collaborative Decision Making/S-CDM. Issues such as information sharing between different stakeholders and the effective integration of more strategic surface congestion management decisions with tactical departure metering strategies are being studied in order to handle operational uncertainties.

Figure 3

Last Updated 3/31/2020

Annual Reports