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Ivanpah Valley Airfield Alternative Analysis (IVAAAN)

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McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, Nevada is the sixth busiest airport in the nation and is expected to reach its capacity of about 55 million passengers a year by 2015. The Clark County Department of Aviation (CCDOA) proposes to build a new full service international supplemental airport in the near future in the Ivanpah Valley. The airport site, a 6000-acre dry lakebed, is located 30 miles south of Las Vegas. The proposed airport will help alleviate congestion at LAS, which can no longer expand because of the existing housing and commercial development that surrounds it. Two alternative Airport Layout Plans (ALPs) are being considered:
  1. Closely-Spaced Runway Plan in which the two parallel runways are 1,200 feet apart and located on the west side of the terminal buildings.
  2. Widely-Spaced Runway Plan in which the terminal buildings and facilities are situated in the midfield between the two parallel runways that are 4,800 feet apart.
Photo of closely-spaced runway plan.
Closely-Spaced Runway Plan
Photo of widely-spaced runway plan.
Widely-Spaced Runway Plan

NASA's FutureFlight Central (FFC) virtual reality air traffic control tower conducted simulations of the two airport layouts in February and March 2007. A follow-on simulation was conducted in May 2007.

Study Objectives

The purpose of the simulations is to validate the operational viability of the two ALPs. Airport surface efficiency data, digital voice communication and controllers’ feedback were gathered for each plan on airport efficiency, flexibility and safety.

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Simulation Description

FutureFlight Central developed four high fidelity 3D databases to depict each of the ALPs under two facility build-outs: opening day and full build-out. Scenarios were developed to simulate three levels of traffic, day and night scenes for the low traffic level scenarios, day scenes for the high level scenarios and two traffic-flow operations (north-flow and south-flow). The three levels of traffic were as follow:
  • 30 operations per hour, depicting operations expected on opening day plus 5 years
  • 90 operations per hour, peak arrivals and peak departures
  • 100 operations per hour, peak arrivals and continuous departure demand
Image of the in-tower view of an air traffic controller operating the closely-spaced runway plan
Air Traffic Controller Operates the Closely-Spaced Runway Plan

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Customer Benefits

Using the highest fidelity human-in-the-loop simulation, Ivanpah planners have operational data to validate their design decision. The simulation data quantified the benefit of the preferred alternative. Numerous observations from air traffic controllers provided valuable input for improvements to the ultimate the airport design.

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A complete report is available at IVAAAN Simulation Summary Report. The following is a summary of the key findings.

The low traffic simulations depicting opening day traffic did not distinguish an appreciable benefit between the two alternatives.

At the higher traffic level, there was a more consistent and larger differential between the two alternatives. The Closely-Spaced Runway Plan showed a 40% higher average inbound taxi time. Interaction of operations for the Closely-Spaced Runway Plan indicated nominally two minutes of delay for arrivals due to runway crossings. Subjective data from the high traffic level scenarios clearly identified higher workload levels and safety concerns for the Closely-Spaced Runway Plan. The air traffic controller participants rated the Widely-Spaced Runway Plan to be more efficient, easy to manage and safe. However, analysis indicated that during this simulation there was not a continuous departure demand at all times.

The follow-on simulation was conducted with an even higher departure demand. The Widely Spaced Runway Plan showed a greater ability to handle the higher volume. The departure rate for the Widely-Spaced Runway Plan was about 15 departures per hour higher than for the Closely-Spaced Runway Plan. The average inbound taxi time for the Closely-Spaced Runway Plan was 55% higher than for the Widely-Spaced Runway Plan. Arrival aircraft were delayed nominally 4.5 minutes due to runway crossings.

ASRC Research and Technology Solutions (ARTS) prepared a report based on the data collected during the simulation. The report will be used by FAA who is preparing the Environmental Impact Statement.

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Last Updated: September 13, 2017

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