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HIGHLIGHTS ARCHIVE
08.05.09
Division Highlights

Contents
NASA-FAA Research Transition Team completed final draft of Integrated Arrival/Departure/Surface Plan: On July 27 and 28, the multi-agency Integrated Arrival/Departure/Surface (IADS) Research Transition Team (RTT) met at NASA Ames Research Center to complete a final draft of the IADS RTT Plan. The final plan is scheduled to reach the JPDO Senior Policy Committee by September 30, 2009. This plan will identify six research products to be transitioned to the FAA from March 2012 to March 2015. One product is the Precision Departure Release Capability that will be developed and evaluated at the NASA North Texas Testbed. This research activity will develop algorithms to integrate surface and departure management tools to improve schedule departure time compliance. FAA representatives from the Aviation Research & Technology Development office, the NextGen Integration & Implementation Office, and the System Operations Planning and Procedures Office participated in this meeting. NASA researchers and managers from the NextGen Airportal and NextGen Airspace Projects along with representatives of the NASA/FAA RTT Coordinating Committee also participated. NASA and the FAA established the RTTs to ensure NASA research needed for NextGen is identified, quantified, conducted, and effectively transferred to the FAA. In 2010, the IADS RTT will develop detailed Research Management Plans for each of these products.

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LAX North Airfield Safety Study (LAX-NASS): Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the organization that manages operations at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), entered into an agreement with NASA Ames Research Center to use SimLabs' FutureFlight Central (FFC) and the Boeing 747-400 Simulator at Crew-Vehicle Systems Research Facility (CVSRF) in a major safety study of LAX. LAWA also appointed a six-member Academic Panel of well-known experts on airport operations to design the simulation study and report on its findings. SimLabs' role is to implement their experiment design in the FFC and CVSRF facilities and make it all work. Five different north airfield configurations will be evaluated for safety and efficiency. The study will investigate traffic levels and aircraft fleet mix expected in the future, including very large aircraft such as the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747-8.

The first two major tasks accomplished by the FFC staff were: 1) integrating the Air Traffic Generator (ATG) with the native operating system of FFC; and 2) developing five different visual databases of conceptual runways, taxiways and airport buildings. Extensive photo detail was used to establish the baseline and then the databases were derived through modifications. The result was five very realistic daytime and night visual databases of the conceptual LAX configurations. Aircraft models for the Airbus A380, Boeing 747-8, and Boeing 787 were created in addition to existing models of current aircraft to simulate the future traffic mix at LAX. All the airport databases were also configured to display correctly on the 747 simulator. The visual images on the two simulators were synchronized so that they were consistent when seen from the tower and the 747 pilot's perspectives.

The Academic Panel developed 54 one-hour scenarios with arrival/departure traffic and gate information that will be evaluated during August 2009. The simulation will use 21 experienced tower controllers and 20 pilots to reproduce operations in the LAX tower and the safety and operational aspects from a pilot's point-of-view will be evaluated by the nine experienced commercial pilots flying the Boeing 747-400 simulator. Data will be collected in the form of audio and written questionnaires as well as extensive data on traffic movement and aircraft-state taken from the two simulators. July was dedicated to checking out the simulation and training the pilots who manage the arrival/departure traffic.

SimLabs accommodated two very high level VIP visits during the training period. The first was from the Los Angeles city and airport executive management, including LA City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, Airport Commissioner Walter Zifkin, and LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey. The next was the North Runway Safety Advisory Committee (NORSAC) which is comprised of various stakeholders with an interest in the LAX expansion. Both groups were very impressed with the realism and scale of the study and were confident that the simulation would yield valid results.

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Cross comparison of Aircraft Trajectory Technologies: A multi-year effort was recently completed to document and compare the Trajectory Prediction Capabilities for five disparate Air Traffic Management (ATM) automation systems. Trajectory prediction is the cornerstone of the future “trajectory-based operations” concepts for a next generation ATM system. Documentation of current capabilities and future requirements is necessary for successful operational use of advanced ATM automation systems on the ground or in the air. The ATM R&D community will be able to use this documentation to leverage prior work, reduce duplication of effort, and improve interoperability between current and future ground and airborne systems. This research was a collaborative effort between government and industry involving Lockheed Martin (non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement), L3 Communications General Electric Aviation (under NRA contract), and NASA. The team reverse-engineered the trajectory prediction capabilities for five automation systems including NASA's CTAS en route, CTAS terminal, and FACET traffic flow management automation systems, Lockheed's new En Route Automation System, and GE's line of Flight Management Systems for Boeing and Airbus. A framework was developed to facilitate the documentation of these five systems in a clear, complete, consistent, and cross-comparable manner. A comparison of the systems yielded a gold mine of technical information and lessons learned, many of which have already been incorporated into NASA's CTAS research baseline over the last year. Results also provided key insights into the similarities and differences between systems, the pros and cons of various modeling approaches, and a standard for documentation of trajectory prediction capabilities and requirements for future automation concepts. The results also present the industry, FAA, and NASA with key aids for communicating and integrating advances in trajectory-prediction technologies, leveraging technical advances across the community, and starting to develop and use “common” trajectory prediction capabilities. This will facilitate the technical transfer and use of NASA trajectory prediction technologies by the ATM community. NASA and Lockheed will jointly publish the results, and the research will now focus on the determination of quantitative trajectory prediction performance requirements for future automation systems such as NASA's En route Descent Advisor.

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Summer Internship Enhances Airspace Partitioning Method: Jinhua Li, a PhD student in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University, recently completed a two-month summer internship at NASA Ames Research Center. Mr. Li, his PhD advisor, Inseok Hwang, and his mentor, Michael Bloem, teamed with Mosaic ATM. The team developed an efficient approach for partitioning airspace into sectors. The first step of the approach is to model a region of airspace containing traffic flows with a weighted graph. Then, graph theory is used to partition the graph into sub-graphs with desirable properties. Finally, sector boundaries are generated such that each sector contains one sub-graph. Mr. Li refined the approach by adding constraints that prevent sector boundaries from being too close to flows or flow intersections like airports. The next step in this research is to design sectorizations that can be dynamically adapted from one to the next. Mr. Li and Mr. Bloem postulated that properties of permissible airspace boundary adaptations could be learned from historical sector combining and splitting data. These properties could then be taken into consideration as algorithms are developed. As part of their support of NASA, Mr. Li and his colleagues will continue this research at Purdue.

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