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Improving Policy Analysis Tools to Evaluate Higher-Altitude Aircraft Operations

Project Number: 058
Category: Emissions, Supersonics, Tools

Innovations in aircraft and engine design, which aim to reduce noise, could lead to increased fuel burn, emissions, and atmospheric effects. This is especially true for supersonic aircraft. Decision-makers, who aim to consider these tradeoffs, subsequently need detailed information on the atmospheric impacts associated with changes in fuel burn and on the inherent uncertainties in the atmospheric impacts. For this purpose, rapid atmospheric assessment tools have been developed. These tools are suitable for use in cost-benefit analyses and have robust consideration of uncertainties. However, the existing tools only cover the impacts of the subsonic aircraft fleet which operates almost exclusively in the troposphere and lowermost stratosphere.

The goal of this project is to incorporate the latest scientific understanding of the environmental impacts of high-altitude emissions into existing rapid atmospheric assessment tools. This will enable examination of the effects of emissions at the higher altitudes where supersonic aircraft will operate.

More specifically, the project team will develop and apply the adjoint of the GEOS-Chem UCX tropospheric-stratospheric chemistry transport model. Analytical estimates of the sensitivity of atmospheric quantities such as the ozone layer will be produced using this tool and incorporated into the FAA’s Aviation environmental Portfolio Management Tool (APMT). This will result in a rapid policy assessment tool which can efficiently estimate the effects of high-altitude aviation on the environment, and how those might change in response to modifications such as low-noise technology.


The expected results will enable rapid assessments of the long-term atmospheric effects of aviation, including supersonic flights, under different policy and technology scenarios. The results are expected to facilitate an understanding of how new lower noise technologies could impact fuel burn and the atmosphere.

Last Updated 9/20/2022

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