Body of Knowledge Module 4

Airport Capacity and Delay

2004/2005 @All Rights Reserved American Association of Airport Executives
These modules were originally written by Stephen Quilty, A.A.E., and have been updated by the AAAE BOE, AAAE staff, and industry experts.

Module Objectives ............................................................................................. 1 Capacity and Delay ............................................................................................ 2 Impact of Capacity Restraints................................................................... 3 Managing Capacity .................................................................................. 6 Airfield Characteristics ...................................................................... 6 Airspace and Air Traffic Characteristics ............................................ 7 Demand Management ........................................................................ 8 Slot Management .............................................................................. 11 Modeling Airport Capacity ..................................................................... 13 Technological and Weather Solutions ............................................................. 13 National Airspace Architecture .............................................................. 14 Impact of Very Large Aircraft ................................................................ 15 Meteorological Effects and Weather Aids .............................................. 15 Wake Turbulence and Vortices ......................................................... 16 Wind Shear ....................................................................................... 17 Flight Service Stations ...................................................................... 17 Future Weather Technologies ........................................................... 20 Summary .......................................................................................................... 20 Study Questions ............................................................................................... 21 Tables
Table A AIP Priority System for Capacity Enhancement ............................................... 2

Module Objectives
Can you.... 1. describe the airport system, its different elements, and where capacity constraints can occur within the system? 2. explain the difference between throughput and practical capacity? 3. identify what constitutes delay and explain its relation to capacity? 4. identify sources for delay data? 5. explain the central factors and characteristics that act to lower system capacity or induce delay? 6. list and explain the ways by which demand can be managed? 7. explain the pros and cons of the different methods for managing demand? 8. explain the purpose and rationale for airport slots, slot rules, and their impact on capacity? 9. describe what new technologies are being developed to alleviate capacity and delay problems at airports? 10. describe the effects of different weather phenomenon on airport capacity? 11. explain how weather information is gathered and disseminated throughout the aviation system? 12. classify the different levels of ASOS available? 13. explain the acronyms, terms, and common phrases used in the modules?


Capacity and Delay
The United States Congress and various courts have found that airspace is a limited national resource and should be administered by the FAA. These findings stated that since it is a limited national resource, the FAA should efficiently manage the airspace in the public interest to ensure the safety of aircraft in the system. Congress further mandated that full consideration be provided for national defense, commercial and general aviation, and the public right of transit. In making efficient use of the airspace, the FAA air traffic control function focuses on the ability of the airspace system to handle the volume of traffic desiring to use it without incurring an appreciable measure of delay. Delay results when the demand for use of the air traffic and airport systems exceeds the ability of the systems to handle it. Capacity refers to the ability of a portion of airspace or an airport to handle a given volume of traffic (demand) within a specified time period. As a result of airline deregulation and the general strength of the U. S. economy, more people are using the system. The resulting increased activity affects not just the capacity of the airfield and gate areas but also the terminal buildings, public access routes, and parking facilities.
The ACEA reauthorization of AIP gave the highest funding priority to capacityenhancing projects.

Beginning with the 1987 Airport and Airway Safety and Capacity Expansion Act (ACEA), funding priority was given to airport projects that focused on enhancing and developing an airport’s overall capacity to handle aircraft and ground operations. The ACEA reauthorization of AIP funds focused on objectives to increase the capacity of the airport and airway system. It called for giving highest funding priority to commercial service airports and maximizing the use of safety facilities. This included installing, operating, and maintaining the ten items listed in Table A. Table A: AIP Priority System for Capacity Enhancement
1. 2. 3. 4. Electronic or visual guidance on each runway; Grooving or friction treatment on each primary and secondary runway; Distance-to-go signs for each primary and secondary runway; A precision approach, vertical guidance, and full approach light system for each primary runway; 5. A non-precision instrument approach for each secondary runway; 6. Runway end identifier lights on each runway that does not have an approach light system; 7. A surface movement radar (SMR) system at each CAT-III airport; 8. Taxiway lighting and sign systems; 9. Runway edge lighting, marking; and 10. Radar approach coverage for each airport terminal area.

Funding of capacity-enhancing projects will always be of major concern to airport operators. AIP priorities tend to change with each Congressional funding reauthorization. The key issues continue to be the amount of capital required, the sources for the funds, and the means of financing. 2

Impact of Capacity Restraints
To understand the impact of capacity restraints or improvements, airport management must view the different areas of an airport as a set of interrelated and interdependent physical facilities and components. For an airport to function efficiently, the capacity of each component must be matched to the others. Improving or restricting one part of the system has an impact on the others. When performing a capacity analysis, airport operators must investigate four distinct elements:(1) airspace, (2) airfield, (3) terminal, and (4) ground access. These can be further broken down into the major system components of runways, taxiways, ramps, and aprons, gate/terminal area, terminal/curbside interface, vehicle circulation and parking areas, and the access roadway. The larger the airport, the more likely that further subsystems exist within each of the larger components. Airfield capacity is the rate at which aircraft movements on the runway/taxiway system result in a given level of delay. Airfield capacity is of major concern to the FAA and the various members of the aviation industry for different reasons. For the FAA, the concern is the impact delay has on managing a safe and separated airspace to operate the aircraft. For the airlines and other aircraft operators, the concerns are safety and the economic cost of operating their aircraft. For the airport operator, the focus is on safety, economic operation, public service, and convenience. Two terms are commonly used when defining airfield capacity: throughput capacity and practical capacity. Throughput capacity is defined as the rate at which aircraft can operate into or out of the airfield without regard to any delay. Practical capacity is the number of operations (a takeoff, landing, or approach to landing) that can be expressed in terms of the maximum acceptable rate incurring an average delay. The same two terms can be applied to capacity considerations for the other components of the airport system. The throughput method of calculating airport capacity and average delay per aircraft comes from computer models used by the FAA to analyze airport capacity and reduce aircraft delay. The capacity of an airfield is not constant over time. In determining average delay, analysts calculate the Practical Hourly Capacity (PHOCAP) of an airport system. PHOCAP is the total combined capacity measure of the runways, taxiways, and gate areas. Practical Annual Capacity (PANCAP) is a commonly used measure for evaluating the feasibility and benefit of airport development and improvement projects. PANCAP is defined as the level of operation that results in not more than four minutes average delay per aircraft in a normal peak two-hour operating period. PANCAP should not be confused with airline schedule reliability, which is typically identified as the ability of an aircraft to arrive at its assigned arrival 3

Objective 1

The four distinct elements in a capacity analysis are (1) airspace, (2) airfield, (3) terminal, and (4) ground access.

Airfield capacity—the rate at which aircraft movements on the runway/taxiway system result in a given level of delay

Objective 2 Throughput capacity and practical capacity define airfield capacity. Throughput is the rate at which aircraft can operate into or out of the airfield without regard to any delay. Practical capacity, always less than throughput capacity, is the number of operations that can be expressed in terms of the maximum acceptable rate incurring an average delay. PHOCAP( practical hourly capacity)—the total combined capacity measure of the runway, taxiway, and gate areas.

PANCAP( practical annual capacity)—the level of operation that results in not more than four minutes average delay per aircraft in a normal peak two-hour operating period. AAR (Airport Acceptance Rate)— used by airport radar traffic control centers to calculate the desired interval between successive arrival aircraft.

time within 15 minutes. That statistic may or may not be related to an airport’s capacity limitations. However, it is reported to the Department of Transportation and is frequently cited. Another capacity measurement is Airport Acceptance Rate (AAR). It is used by Airport Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC) to calculate the desired interval between successive arrival aircraft. AAR is the maximum number of aircraft that can land at any given airport during a one-hour time period. Practical capacity, which is always less than throughput capacity, is that level of operation or airfield utilization that can be attained with no more than some agreed-upon, or acceptable amount of delay. It is usually expressed as an average delay, with the understanding that some users will experience less and some will experience more than the average. Successive hourly demands exceeding the hourly capacity result in unacceptable delays. Experience shows that delay increases gradually with rising levels of traffic until the practical capacity of an airport is reached, at which point the average delay per aircraft operation is in the range of four to six minutes. If traffic demand increases beyond that level, delays increase at an exponential rate. When average delays exceed nine minutes per operation, an airport is considered severely congested. Beyond that point, delays are very dramatic with small changes in traffic, weather conditions, or other disruptions. The result is that very lengthy delays disrupt flight schedules and impose a heavy workload on the air traffic control system. A small reduction or increase in the number of hourly operations, or improvements in airfield technology, can have a significant effect on delay. Automation and technology can help to decrease the rate of delay as demand approaches the throughput limit. When an operational figure is given for airfield capacity, it usually represents an average based either on an assumed range of conditions or on actual airport operating experience. Unlike throughput capacity, which can be determined and calculated objectively, practical capacity is a subjective value judgment about how much delay is tolerable. Acceptability of delay is the key to the concept of practical capacity. For a person on vacation, departing from or arriving at an airport fifteen minutes late may be acceptable. For a business person, fifteen minutes may be quite unreasonable. For an airline operator desiring to get a particular flight to a gate so that passengers can make connections, that same fifteen minutes may not be tolerable. The airline making a flight into a non-connecting airport may find a similar time delay to be acceptable. Hub and spoke type of airports are more likely to experience delays than origin and destination airports. What constitutes an acceptable level of delay is a judgment involving three factors. First, it must be recognized that some delay is unavoidable simply because it occurs for reasons beyond anyone’s control (i. e., wind direction, weather, aircraft performance characteristics), and the randomness of demand 4

An airport is considered severely congested when average delays exceed nine minutes per operation.

Practical capacity is a subjective value judgment about how much delay is tolerable.

Objective 3

for service. Secondly, some delays, though avoidable, might be too expensive to eliminate (i. e., the cost of constructing a second runway might well exceed the potential benefit of reducing delays occurring twice a day). Thirdly, even with the most vigorous and successful effort, the random nature of delay means there will always be some aircraft encountering delay greater than some acceptable length of time. Thus, acceptable delay is essentially a policy decision about tolerability, taking into account the technical feasibility and economic practicality of available remedies. The FAA gathers delay data from two different sources. The first is through the Air Traffic Operations Management System (ATOMS) in which FAA personnel record aircraft that are delayed 15 or more minutes by a specific cause (weather, terminal volume, center volume, closed runways or taxiways, and National Airspace System equipment interruptions). Aircraft delayed fewer than 15 minutes are not recorded in ATOMS. The second source of delay information is through the Airline Service Quality Performance (ASQP) data collection. It is collected from airlines with one percent or more of the total domestic scheduled passenger revenues. The delay is represented by phase of flight (i. e., gate-hold, taxi-out, airborne, or taxi-in delays). ASQP delays range from 0 minutes to greater than 15 minutes. Gate capacity is of major concern to airlines because of the impact it has on their net profit. An aircraft parked at a gate is not generating revenue, while an aircraft waiting on the ramp for a gate to become available is incurring additional expense. Gate capacity can be affected by the gate type or size, the gate mix (the percentage of wide versus non-wide bodied jets), and by gate occupancy time (the length of time it takes to cycle an aircraft through the gate). Delay in these and other areas are evidenced by increased congestion and usage of the airport terminal. The FAA has developed an Aviation System Capacity Plan, which outlines the magnitude of delays at the nation’s top 100 airports for enplanements. It also catalogs and summarizes programs that have the potential to enhance capacity and reduce delays at each airport. A key point in analyzing airports in terms of demand and capacity is that airports are multi-modal facilities. That means that any one transport-access mode, or a combination of transport-access modes, can cause delay. The FAA has recognized this issue and now stipulates that AIP grants can be issued for capacity enhancement projects only if the airport certifies that all of its elements can handle the increased traffic. For example, if an airport applies for a grant to construct a parallel runway, which will increase the airport’s traffic, the airport operator must then certify that the landside facilities (terminal, road access, and parking lot) can also accommodate the increased traffic.

Acceptable delay is a judgment that recognizes that some delays are (1) unavoidable, (2) too expensive to eliminate, and (3) a few aircraft will encounter a higher level than normal. Objective 4

ATOMS—Air Traffic Operations Management System

ASQP—Airline Service Quality Performance

The FAA now stipulates that AIP grants can be issued for capacity enhancement projects only if airport certifies that all of its elements can handle the increased traffic.


Managing Capacity
A major concern in airport system planning is the adequacy of runways to handle anticipated aircraft operations. If runway capacity is inadequate, air traffic is delayed, which causes expense to airlines and aircraft operators, inconvenience to passengers, and a major workload for the FAA. Most airports tend to be uncongested because a single runway can handle over 200,000 operations annually. This is approximately the amount of activity that would be generated by a city with a population of 350,000.
Objective 4 Factors that lower capacity or induce delay—airfield characteristics, airspace characteristics, air traffic control, meteorological conditions, and demand characteristics Objective 5 The most critical capacity determinant—runway use configuration

Having more runways is one means to provide additional capacity. Another is dividing the air traffic among several airports in a region. Much of the strategy for successful management of an airfield involves devising ways to compensate for factors that lower capacity or induce delay. These factors can be grouped into five categories: airfield characteristics, airspace characteristics, air traffic control, meteorological conditions, and demand characteristics.

Airfield Characteristics
Airfield capacity is affected by a number of items, such as runway configuration and length, percent of arrivals versus departures, different mix of aircraft categories, percent of touch-and-go operations, location and type of exit taxiways, type of navigational and existing approach aids, availability of radar coverage, and weather conditions. The most critical capacity determinant is the runway use configuration. The second most critical determinant is runway occupancy time. Historically, the lateral distance for aircraft operations on parallel runways has decreased in accordance with emerging technology. Currently, FAA Air Traffic control procedures allow for simultaneous departure and arrival operations under visual meteorological conditions (VMC) and instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) when two parallel runways have a minimum spacing of 2,500 feet. Parallel runways having staggered thresholds can either increase or decrease the capacity for simultaneous operations, depending on whether the arriving aircraft is approaching the near or the far runway threshold. Some airports have the capability to allow triple simultaneous instrument aircraft approaches and landings. Computerized airfield/airspace management systems at airports are used to instantly select the highest capacity and most energy-efficient runway use configuration for the prevailing circumstances of wind, visibility, traffic mix, arrival-to-departure ratio, and noise abatement. Improved surveillance equipment and procedures can reduce runway separation standards. The use of better technology likely continues to reduce the current separation required for independent IFR landing operations on parallel runways.


Airspace and Air Traffic Characteristics
The mission of the FAA’s Traffic Management System (TMS) is to balance the air traffic demand for the National Air Space System (NAS) with system capacity in order to ensure maximum efficiency. The result is a safe and expeditious flow of air traffic with minimal delays. Traffic management initiatives are used to limit the volume of traffic allowed into or out of an airport or airspace. The most common initiatives are (1) mile-in-trail or minute-in-trail restrictions, (2) traffic reroutes, (3) ground delay programs, and (4) ground stops. Airspace and air traffic rules governing aircraft separation, runway occupancy, spacing of arrivals and departures, and the use of parallel or converging runways affect the capacity and delay characteristics of an airport. The mandatory requirement for the FAA to provide adequate separation of aircraft in the terminal, enroute, and oceanic areas is dependent upon the radar and communication capabilities of the system. Radar vectoring, sequencing, and separation for all IFR (instrument flight rules) and participating VFR (visual flight rules) aircraft establish the capacity of the airspace surrounding an airport. A major task of the air traffic controller is to manage aircraft traffic in a way that maintains a smooth flow of aircraft to and from airports with minimum delay. The FAA has developed software packages that assist the management of aircraft traffic at and around airports. These packages are known collectively as traffic management systems (TMS). The least disruptive traffic management initiatives, but also the least accurate, are the mile-in-trail or minute-in-trail restrictions that are intended to regulate the distance between successive aircraft. As aircraft approach a destination airport, approach controllers meter or otherwise regulate the arrival time of aircraft in the terminal area by limiting their number or by increasing the time between aircraft arrivals, departures, and/or enroute separations. The intent behind metering is to match the arrival of aircraft to the ability of the airport to handle the volume (known as acceptance rate). Adjusting an aircraft’s speed or modifying its arrival flight path generally accomplishes metering. Traffic reroutes may also be used to move traffic away from affected airspace or to direct traffic to areas of lesser demand. This management initiative is primarily used to avoid significant weather and/or move arrival/departure traffic to instrument approach fixes with lower demand. A significant factor affecting airport capacity is the longitudinal spacing required between aircraft landing and departing because this affects the number of aircraft that can be delivered to or released from a runway in a given unit of time. Before the introduction of wide-bodied jets, the landing separation standard under instrument flight rules was three miles.
TMS (traffic management systems)— software packages that assist the management of a smooth flow of aircraft to and from airports with minimum delay. The mile-in-trail or minute-in-trail restrictions are both the least disruptive traffic management initiatives and the least accurate. Metering aims to match the arrival of aircraft to the ability of the airport to handle the volume (known as acceptance rate).


Wake vortex—an aerodynamic disturbance that originates at the wingtips of an aircraft and trails in a corkscrew fashion behind the aircraft

The advent of heavy jet aircraft added new separation and spacing standards. Depending on the size of the aircraft trailing a heavy jet, a separation of four, five, or even six miles is necessary to reduce the effects of wake turbulence phenomenon. This is an aerodynamic disturbance that originates at the wingtips of an aircraft and trails in a corkscrew fashion behind the aircraft. An aircraft following another can encounter the turbulence if adequate spacing does not allow the vortex to dissipate. The smaller the trailing aircraft compared with the Spacing standards lead aircraft, the greater the separation. Spacing standards between aircraft between aircraft taking off require ATC taking off require ATC to double departure release times from 60 seconds to 120 to double departure seconds after a heavy jet. At those airports that are the busiest and have a subrelease times from 60 stantial percentage of heavy jets, capacity can be reduced almost 20 percent seconds to 120 because of wake turbulence. seconds after a heavy

Sequencing entails specifying the exact order in which aircraft are to take off or land. As aircraft arrive in the vicinity of the airport, they are sequenced into a landing position. Standards for wake vortex separation require that adequate spacing exist between aircraft. Spacing involves establishing and maintaining the appropriate interval between successive aircraft. It is a variable element among aircraft depending upon operational safety, uniformity of traffic flow, efficiency of runway use, and weather conditions. Traffic management unit controllers are assigned to ARTCC to coordinate the flow of aircraft through the center’s airspace. Their information is forwarded to the Central Flow Control Facility (CFCF) in Washington, DC. The CFCF is responsible for monitoring aircraft traffic across the nation for the purpose of alleviating congestion. If weather is affecting the capacity at a major highdensity airport, the CFCF may require aircraft waiting for a departure clearance at an airport hundreds of miles away and experiencing clear sunny skies to wait on the ground until the system can safely handle the enroute portion of the flight. The CFCF has subsequently been renamed the Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC). When capacity is expected to be reduced at the arrival airport, ground delay programs are used to hold the traffic at the departure airport. Ground delay programs are the primary tools for limiting the number of arrivals at an airport that is significantly affected by bad weather or is anticipated to have limited runway availability. Another tool used is a ground stop. This is used as a last resort, because it holds aircraft on the ground for varying time periods. Though they immediately reduce the number of aircraft allowed to enter the NAS, the inconvenience and expense to the traveling public can be more disruptive. Normally, ground stops are instituted for unusual or unforeseen situations such as runway closures, aircraft accidents, or severe weather conditions.
Objective 6

Demand Management
A major factor influencing a decision to proceed with an airport improvement or other capital project is its benefit-to-cost ratio. The FAA’s historical policy has 8

been to accommodate all growth of air traffic demand. This was accomplished by providing financial aid through the use of aviation trust fund revenues for capital project development such as the building of new facilities or improving existing ones. As the benefit-to-cost ratio decreases due to rising economic costs, other approaches for dealing with capacity and delay problems became more attractive. Those strategies focus on managing demand through either administrative or economic means, or both. Administrative or economic demand management methods promote more effective or economically efficient use of existing facilities rather than adding true capacity. One administrative method is for an airport operator to allocate or restrict airport access by setting quotas on passenger enplanements or on the number and type of aircraft operations permitted. This is generally known as slot allocation. A slot identifies a block of time allocated to an airport user to perform an aircraft operation, either a takeoff or a landing. Other administrative management approaches used are (1) diverting of some of the intended air traffic (primarily general aviation) to reliever airports, (2) balancing the use of aircraft among several metropolitan air carrier airports, and (3) rehubbing or redistributing transfer traffic from busy airports to underutilized airports. Establishing quotas at airports places a limit on the number of aircraft operations per hour. During busy hours, demand for operational slots typically exceeds the quota. User classes such as air carriers, regional carriers, and general aviation normally allocate operational slots. Attempting to divert certain aircraft types helps to alleviate capacity problems by allowing for greater uniformity of aircraft mix at an airport. The mix of aircraft (large vs. small, fast vs. slow, radar equipped vs. basic instrument, etc.) using a runway helps to determine the ultimate airfield capacity and potential for delay. When aircraft are of similar size, speed, and operating characteristics, the runway acceptance rate is greater than when performance characteristics vary. Limiting or diverting traffic further helps to resolve capacity problems at airports by reducing the need for capital improvements. The diversion of aircraft to reliever or other airports has proven to be difficult, if not impossible. Airport operators do not necessarily have the legal power to exclude general aviation (GA) as a class of users at air carrier airports. Several courts have deemed such action as being a restriction on interstate commerce, and therefore it is considered discriminatory. However, some restrictions on GA usage have been upheld. A system-wide solution to alleviate or reduce delays at busy airports is the redistribution of operations to other, less busy airports in other regions. The development of transfer hubs at other than traditionally congested airports may not necessarily provide reduced delay for major airports, but it has allowed for growth that may not have been possible otherwise. This practice, known as rehubbing, generally takes advantage of certain excess capacity in the airspace 9

Administrative or economic demand management methods promote more effective or economically efficient use of existing facilities rather than addingtrue capacity.

Allocating or restricting airport access by setting quotas on passenger enplanements or on the number and type of aircraft operations permitted is an administrative method of managing demand.

Rehubbing—using transfer hubs to redistribute operations to less busy airports in other regions as a means to alleviate or reduce delays at busy airports Objective 7 Aviation economists favor allocating airport access by demand management, which relies on a pricing mechanism.

system by making greater use of the facilities at medium airports. Another form of delay reduction in the hub environment has been with the utilization of a plan spreading the peaks over a greater time period than formerly used. This so-called rolling plan can increase capacity without adding pavement. It typically increases the passenger’s total travel time, but can also have a positive effect when short delays would have caused missed connections and rerouting. Administrative management of airport use—whether by restricting access for certain types of aircraft, by balancing demand among metropolitan area airports, or by establishing quotas—offers the promise of immediate and relatively low-cost airport congestion relief. Aviation economists argue for allocating airport access by demand management, which relies on a pricing mechanism. They argue that by administratively limiting demand, an artificial market equilibrium distorts the nature, quality and costs of air transportation. The economists suggest that by including airport costs and demand as determinants of user fees, delay can be significantly reduced. The two most commonly advocated methods of achieving this are differential pricing and the auctioning of landing rights or slots.

Managing demand economically required the structuring of a pricing system that allowed market forces to allocate scarce airport facilities among competing users. The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) attempted to establish a differential pricing policy (known as PACE) that made landing at Boston’s Logan International Airport unattractive to general aviation traffic. A previous experiment at the three New York City metropolitan airports in 1968 showed that it was primarily general aviation operations that moved away from the peak hours having higher landing fees. In general, differential pricing established by having peak hour surcharges represents an attempt to manage demand by chargBy applying a peaking cost-based landing fees. Excess demand results when prices are below the hour surcharge, which value of facilities. Such demand leads to congestion and delays, which, in turn, is one type of differential pricing, three New leads to calls for additional capacity.
Differential pricing and the auctioning of landing rights or slots are the two most commonly favored methods of reducing delay by including airport costs and demand as determinants of user fees. York City metropolitan airports managed to reduce congestion.

Proponents of differential airport pricing argue that weight-based landing fees are counterproductive because they do not vary with demand. Consequently, they provide no incentive to use an airport’s facilities during off-peak hours. By charging higher user fees during peak hours and lower fees during off peak times, they argue, a more uniform demand will occur at an airport. A major problem with any concept of peak hour surcharges is how to determine their level. One possible method is to charge airport users the full marginal costs of airport facilities. Another is to base the surcharges on the delay costs, which each peak hour user imposes on other users. The end result would be a fee system that increases as delay increases. While it may sound good in theory, the FAA has determined that such a system would adversely affect general aviation users more and therefore was discriminatory.


Slot Management
The term slot was originally used to identify the authority of an aircraft to conduct an IFR operation at a high-density airport. In common usage, a slot identifies a block of time allocated to an airport user to perform an aircraft operation, either a takeoff or a landing. Slots are controlled by the FAA but can be bought, sold, leased, or transferred within FAA limitations and approval. Slot allocation rules, first proposed in 1968, designated five airports as experiencing high-density operations. They were Chicago’s O’Hare (ORD), New Jersey’s Newark (EWR), New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK), New York’s LaGuardia (LGA), and Washington’s National (DCA). The high-density rule was implemented in 1969 and formalized under Federal Aviation Regulation Part 93. Slot rules established a maximum limit on the hourly number of allocated IFR operations (takeoffs and landings) at each high-density traffic area (HDTA) airport and then apportioned the number of movements that may be reserved among the specified classes of users for each airport. Washington National has the added capacity constraint of not allowing any aircraft to operate nonstop from DCA beyond a specified range, which has increased over time. Because different capacities exist for VFR and IFR operations, the high-density rule initially carried IFR restrictions only, meaning that carriers could continue to schedule and operate more aircraft into the restricted airports under visual meteorological conditions. As weather deteriorates to instrument meteorological conditions, the airlines would be required to reroute or cancel flights that exceeded the capacity limit. The FAA eventually changed the rule to require all flights to be handled as if under IFR rules, thereby eliminating the over scheduling of VFR flights. At the high-density airports, slots were allocated according to three classes of users: scheduled air carrier, scheduled commuters, and others. The HDTA rule was not intended to be a permanent rule, but operational conditions dictated otherwise. The FAA did remove EWR from the requirement, but it was determined that the rule would remain in effect at ORD, JFK, LGA, and DCA indefinitely. Slot allocation results from administrative determinations, negotiation, or assignment through a reservation system. Administrative determinations are made through the Slot Administration Office of the FAA. Negotiation is accomplished among the airlines through joint Scheduling Committee Agreements at each capacity controlled airport. Antitrust immunity is granted for these committee agreements since they are submitted to the U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for approval. The reservation system is used primarily for allocating general aviation and charter slots on a first come-first serve basis. The purpose for having slot allocations and auctions was to alleviate congestion at high- demand or high-density airports. When first proposed, it was advocated that if access to an airport has to be limited due to high demand, then it should 11

Objective 8 A slot identifies a block of time allocated to an airport user to perform an aircraft operation, either a takeoff or a landing Implemented in 1969, the high-density rule was formalized under FAR Part 93.

When weather deteriorates to instrument meteorological conditions, the airlines were required to reroute or cancel flights that exceeded the capacity limit.

The slot reservation system is used primarily for allocating general aviation and charter slots on a first come-first serve basis. Having slot allocation and auctions is oneway to alleviate congestion at highdemand or highdensity airports.

Advocates of slot auctions have argued that access to an airport should be treated as a scarce resource and priced accordingly.

be treated as a scarce resource and priced accordingly. In this case, a landing or takeoff slot was considered to be a scarce resource and the market price was best determined by the willingness of a user to pay for the right of access.

The economic principle of supply and demand was touted as the best method to allocate the landing rights. Slot auctions allowed peak-hour access only to those users willing to pay a market-determined price. While slot control did address Slot auctions allow peak-hour access for a operational and noise complaint issues, it further allowed existing carriers with market-determined slots to effectively block new entrants from gaining access. Slots represented one price. of the most significant barriers to entry in the airline business.
Slots—one of the most significant barriers to entry in the airline business

Initially, a carrier could effectively block other air carrier competition by holding a slot, but not using it. To combat this practice the FAA imposed a use-it-or-loseit requirement in the high-density rule. The rule for slot usage was that any slot The FAA recalls any not used 80 percent of the time over a two-month period was to be recalled by slot that is not used 80 the FAA. Other competition barriers were airline alliances, computer reservation percent of the time systems, frequent flier programs, and majority-in-interest agreements.
over a two-month period.

The FAA also formally adopted a buy-sell rule in December 1985. The buy-sell rule allowed air carriers and commuters to transfer slots and, in essence, created a legal issue of whether slots constituted property and could have ownership. To the detriment of some airports, the original FAA rule allowed airlines to “own” the slots and benefit from their sale, without consideration of the community desire for a particular type or class of service. When the rule on buying and selling of slots was first established, the position of the FAA had been that no proprietary rights were created by slots and that slots were considered to be operating privileges subject to FAA control. That policy statement, however, generated much debate among airlines, airports, economists, and government officials. Bankruptcy court rulings favored the principle of slots as property until such time that FAA action under the rule results in forfeiture, reallocation, or withdrawal of the slots.
The FAA has modified FAR Part 93 and incorporated into it special rules that allowed slots to be purchased, sold, traded or leased by any party.

Eventually, recognizing that slots do have value in the event of a bankruptcy, the FAA modified FAR Part 93 and incorporated into it special rules that apply to the disposition of slots. The modifications allowed slots to be purchased, sold, traded, or leased by any party. In the event that slots become available due to capacity enhancement, use-it-or-lose-it provisions, or other FAA action, a lottery process was used to select slot beneficiaries. Slots identified as essential air service (EAS), or those suited for international service, have restrictions on being withdrawn, sold, traded or leased. Arguments have been made against the continuation of the high-density rule at airports. One such argument is that capacity, delay, and congestion are no worse at the originally named airports than at other airports in the U. S. In the 1994 FAA Reauthorization Act, the DOT was authorized to grant exemptions to the high-density rule to allow for more Stage 3 aircraft use if it was in the best public interest. 12

In 1999, the DOT suggested that the high density ruled had outlived its original intent and could be eliminated without harming aviation safety. The DOT proposed that slot restrictions at New York LaGuardia, New York Kennedy, and Chicago O’Hare be eliminated by 2004. Since Congress established the restrictions at Washington Reagan Airport under separate legislation, slot rules would continue there unless Congress determined otherwise. Those restrictions included a perimeter rule, which restricted one-stop flights to city pairs within a specified number of miles of Washington Reagan. The purpose of the perimeter restriction is to manage capacity issues at Washington Reagan and to promote the use of Washington Dulles, which has no such distance restrictions.

Modeling Airport Capacity
Computer simulation models exist to calculate and determine capacity, delay, and the sensitivity of a proposed physical or operational change to an airport or air traffic procedure. SIMMOD is the name of a simulation model used by the FAA, airlines, airports, architects, and engineers to design improvements, calculate travel times and flow rate for an airport or an airport component, and/ or develop procedural alternatives for domestic and international air traffic management. It addresses both the physical and procedural aspects of all air traffic operations, thereby allowing decision-makers to determine projected benefits and effects in terms of airport capacity and in aircraft travel time, delay, and fuel consumption. Since the model incorporates the FAA’s integrated noise model, SIMMOD further allows an assessment of the impact of aircraft noise in the planning process. The Airport Machine Model (AMM) is a general-purpose simulation product that provides detailed landing deceleration modeling, as well as exit selection, runway crossing spacing intervals, and controlled departure queuing. Another simulation model is the Airfield Delay Simulation Model (ADSIM). It is a discrete-event model that calculates travel time, delay, and flow rate. It can also be used to analyze the components of an airport, airport operations, and operations in adjacent airspace. A fourth simulation model is the FAA Airfield Capacity Model. It is a computer program that analytically calculates the maximum operational capacity of a runway system under a wide range of conditions. One final simulation program is the Airport Design Computer Model, which provides basic design parameters for an airport layout plan.

Objective 9

Technological and Weather Solutions
In the search for solutions to capacity and delay problems, the value of new technology is typically measured by its ability to achieve one or more of the following results: (1) increased capacity, (2) higher efficiency or throughput, (3) greater safety, (4) improved reliability, (5) greater accuracy, (6) lower cost, and (7) greater convenience. 13

Objective 10

The U. S. National Airspace System (NAS) is the largest, busiest, and most sophisticated aviation operation in the world. It operates 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year to provide safe and essential services for domestic and international operations. The management of that resource is guided by the NAS architecture, which is a comprehensive plan for modernizing the NAS infrastructure.

National Airspace Architechure
The NAS architecture integrates services, procedures, facilities, and technologies into a compatible network. It does so by enhancing safety through the component areas of communication, navigation, surveillance, decision support systems, weather, flight service, and oceanic routes. The NAS architecture focuses on numerous strategic decisions and is based on safety, user needs, performance, efficiency, affordability, technology availability, transition, and integration. One strategic decision was for air-to-ground communications systems to move from a voice-only capability to voice and data, and for analog processing to move to digital processing. The Next Generation Air-Ground Communications Systems (NGAGCS) replaced the analog radio system, resulting in expanded spectrum capacity, more consistent voice quality, increased radio security, frequency interference protection, and reduced maintenance and operations costs.
Objective 11 GPS (Global Positioning System), coupled with the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and the Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS), is intended to be the sole means of future navigation and landing guidance.

The FAA has stated that the Global Positioning System (GPS), augmented with the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and the Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS), is intended to be the sole means of future navigation and landing guidance. GPS/WAAS is intended to provide enroute and terminal navigation and to be used in non-precision and Category 1 precision approaches. GPS/ LAAS is expected to support Category II and III operations. Initially, GPS/ WAAS is to be available on a supplemental basis, allowing users to gain operational experience. It is expected that by the end of the transition period in the year 2005, the conventional ILS and navigational systems will be required to be GPS/WAAS equipped. Primary radar in the terminal and enroute areas is being upgraded with new sensors and integrated weather capability. The surveillance system is intended to share and display weather radar data. Terminal surveillance is being integrated through the current Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS).

DSS (Decision Support System)— provides more functions and information, upgraded displays, and better data exchange capabilities for the air traffic controllers and traffic management coordinators.

The decision support system (DSS) architecture consists of air traffic control and traffic flow automation management services in the enroute, terminal, tower and control center domains. DSS is to provide more functions and information, upgraded displays, and better data exchange capabilities for the air traffic controllers and traffic management coordinators. In the terminal area, the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) is replacing the current multiple types of processors and displays with an all-digital, integrated system with modern displays and faster distribution networks. STARS supports current radar, traffic and weather advisory, and navigational assistance services. Unlike 14

stand-alone technology from the past, STARS is designed to be expandable and flexible to meet future airspace needs and air traffic capabilities. Flight services allow a pilot to obtain preflight briefings and file flight plans without contacting a flight service specialist. The Operational and Supportability Implementation System (OASIS), is a commercial-based DSS. OASIS incorporates functions currently provided by the graphic weather display, flight service data processing equipment, aviation weather processor, and direct user access terminal service. Self-service kiosks at airports give pilots instant flight service information. To handle the growing number of flights over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the New York, Oakland, and Anchorage oceanic centers have improved their DSS to take full advantage of digital data transmission between pilots, air traffic controllers, and flight information regions. The combination of bad weather, terrain, and the absence of ground aids pose a potentially serious problem to aircraft on approach to an airport. Research in aircraft avionics equipment is attempting to provide a greater measure of safety when pilots are faced with those types of situations. Advanced automation systems are expected to provide programmable video displays to replace radar scopes. This would provide aircraft and weather information, predict and detect potential separation problems, and offer solutions to resolve them. The systems are to be interconnected so controllers can view the entire the nation. With receivers in the cockpit, air traffic control towers and centers will eventually distribute routine communication and flight information through the satellite navigation system.

STARS (Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System)—supports current radar, traffic and weather advisory, and navigational assistance services. OASIS (the operational and supportability implementation system)—a commercial-based DSS, incorporating functions currently provided by the graphic weather display, flight service data processing equipment, aviation weather processor, and direct user access terminal service.

Impact of Very Large Aircraft (VLA)
Aside from technological advances in navigation capabilities, the possibility of future very large aircraft (VLA) or super large aircraft (SLA) will impact airport capacity. VLA and SLA will affect airport components such as the runways, taxiways, ramps, terminal bridges, baggage rooms, and security. Factors, which must be considered, include weight, length and wingspan (estimated at up to 265 feet in width). These aircraft are expected to have seating capacities of approximately 600 passengers. With aircraft of that size, there is a potential for loss of airside capacity due to increased separation standards, aircraft operational restrictions on taxiway and runways, and reduction in the number of accessible gates. Part of the VLA intent is to reduce the number of aircraft operations by fewer-seat aircraft having to fly multiple trips to equal the capacity of one VLA.

Meteorological Effects and Weather Aids
Weather has significant influence on efficiency, capacity, and safety. The FAA estimated in 1992 that 80 percent of all delays greater than 15 minutes were 15

caused by weather. Improved weather reporting systems can reduce the occurrence of aviation accidents related to weather and improve the economic operating conditions of the airlines and other users of the airport system. Much of the effort to reduce delays at airports, from airfield management strategy to installation of improved technology, is aimed at minimizing the disparity between VMC and IMC capacity. VMC are those in which the atmospheric conditions permit pilots to approach, land or takeoff by visual reference and to see and avoid other aircraft. IMC are those in which pilots cannot see other aircraft and safe separation must be assured solely by ATC rules and procedures. Navigation to an airport under IMC conditions requires a pilot to rely on aircraft instruments and electronic navigation. Aside from improved aircraft-monitoring radar, perhaps the single greatest technological need in improving capacity and reducing airport delay, is the development of techniques to improve weather detection and prediction. Two associated phenomena that affect airport operations are wake turbulence and wind shear.

Wake Turbulence and Vortices
Wake vortex or turbulence is an aerodynamic disturbance that originates at the wingtips of an aircraft and trails in a corkscrew fashion behind the aircraft. Wake turbulence, visually similar to that of water waves trailing a speeding boat, can last for several minutes after an aircraft has passed. Often they can be strong enough to upset even aircraft as large as a Boeing 737. The classification of potential wake turbulence effect is based upon the type of aircraft making the airport approach. The aircraft classification guides controllers in determining adequate separation in order for the wake vortices to dissipate. As the result of several aircraft accidents involving wake turbulence from a B-757, new separation rules for several types of airframes went into effect in 1996. A small aircraft following a B-757 must have five-mile separation, while one following a heavy aircraft, such as a B-747, must have six miles. Small aircraft are those weighing less than 41,000 pounds, such as the Beechcraft 1900 or Embraer 120. Heavy aircraft are those, which weigh more than 225,000 pounds. What are termed large aircraft are in between the two other classifications. Previously, wake turbulence separation was based upon the aircraft’s design classification of A, B, C, or D. The standard separation between two aircraft approaching an airport required a two-minute wait, while three minutes of wait were required for small aircraft departing behind large aircraft. The newer five and six mile separation standards replace the time criteria. Wake turbulence, or the blast from helicopters, propeller blades, or turbine engines is generally localized and not long lasting. Nonetheless, it can be dangerous since the turbulence or blast from behind a jet or turbine engine is strong enough to overturn a ground vehicle or small aircraft. They also can kick up stone and debris and turn them into flying projectiles. 16

Wind Shear
A special type of weather phenomenon affecting airport capacity is wind shear. Wind shear is defined as any sudden change in wind velocity or direction. It is associated with weather conditions such as warm or cold fronts, low-level jet streams, and mountainous terrain. Microbursts have gained prominence in aviation safety due to several major aircraft accidents being attributed to them. They are strong, dangerous vertical or down drafts associated with an intense thunderstorm. The drafts result in a strong wind shear that can make an aircraft’s airspeed marginally, if not completely, unsafe due to the sudden change in the direction and force of the air. To help detect and combat wind shear the FAA, in conjunction with the other governmental agencies such as NOAA and NASA, has developed a Low Level Windshear Alert System (LLWAS), which provides controllers with information on wind conditions on, and around the runway environment. The LLWAS consists of Doppler radars positioned at different locations on and around an airport. They measure wind velocity and direction and are intended for local weather warnings. A sudden change in either the velocity or direction will trigger a process that alerts air traffic controllers. The LLWAS has been installed at many airports in the United States.

The LLWAS consists of Doppler radars positioned at different locations on and around an airport for measuring wind velocity and direction.

Flight Service Stations
The Civil Aeronautics Agency first established the Interstate Airway Communication Station (IACS) in 1942. It was designed to offer flight advisory services to aircraft operating along the federal airways. Up to that time, the airlines had been responsible for providing their pilots with that information. The IACS was the precursor to today’s Flight Service Station (FSS). The Flight Service Station is an air traffic facility that provides pilot briefing, aircraft enroute communication, and visual flight rule (VFR) search and rescue services. In providing pilot briefings, the FSS broadcasts aviation weather and National Airspace System (NAS) information, receives and processes IFR flight plans, and relays ATC clearances. The FSS has responsibility for originating and disseminating notices to airmen (NOTAMs) and for monitoring various navaids around the country. Some FSSs, and the more recent Automated Flight Service Stations (AFSS), have responsibility for taking weather observations, issuing local airport advisories, and advising customs and immigration of transborder flights. Flight Service Stations have existed at many airports around the country. They are responsible for providing a wide range of services such as disseminating weatherrelated information and coordinating flight planning activities to primarily general aviation pilots. Because of concerns for operational cost increases associated with forecasted growth in demand for flight services, a cost-conscious FAA started to reduce the number of FSS by consolidating them into larger AFSS. 17

In conjunction with the consolidation of FSS, hundreds of Automated Surface Observations Stations (ASOS) and Automated Weather Observation Systems (AWOS) have been installed at airports and other sites nationwide to provide current and reliable weather information to pilots, the AFSS, and other aviation users. ASOS and AWOS are 24-hour real time weather data collection and display systems that transmit computer generated voice reports about conditions at the location of the ASOS. The reports can also be accessed by telephone. The difference between the two is that ASOS are more expensive systems that are part of a National Weather Service program. ASOS also have more redundancy built in than AWOS. AWOSs appear to be the system of choice, however, for airport operators seeking weather-reporting capabilities at a more economical price. A typical ASOS configuration includes sensors for wind direction and speed, temperature, dew point, altimeter, ceiling, visibility, and liquid precipitation. ASOS is primarily located on airports near the touchdown zones of the primary instrument runway. AWOS is found at remote non-airport locations or on smaller airports. Initially, responsibility for ASOS was with the NWS, but that responsibility was transferred to the FAA in 1996. The National Weather Service (NWS) is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which falls under the Department of Commerce (DOC). The FAA is part of the Department of Transportation. The National Flight Data Center (NFDC) is a facility established by the FAA. Located in Washington, DC, the NFDC operates as a central aeronautical information service for the collection, validation, and dissemination of aeronautical data. There are four ASOS categories that are determined by air traffic levels and the severity of local weather. Level A stations include major hubs or airports with the potential for severe weather. Level B stations include smaller hub airports or airports that have worse than average weather. Tower controllers augment level C airports or FSS specialists who report thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, and tower visibility. All towered airports are considered Level C airports during hours of normal tower operation. Contract weather observers may supplement Level C observations. Level D airports are completely automated and are not augmented.
Some aviation users have criticized the use of ASOS because (1) it cannot replicate the observations of distant phenomena, such as thunderstorms, (2) it doesn’t provide a trend analysis of whether conditions are improving or deteriorating, and (3) sometimes the information transmitted is in error.

Some aviation users have criticized the use of ASOS because it cannot replicate the observations of distant phenomena, such as thunderstorms, or provide human observers. It has also been criticized because it doesn’t provide a trend analysis of whether conditions are improving or deteriorating, and because sometimes the information transmitted is in error. These criticisms are being addressed by supplementing and augmenting ASOS and AWOS observations with human observations; by providing complementary data derived from other sources, such as radar lightning data; and by the use of backup sensors or data. The standard Surface Aviation Observation (SAO) report, as prescribed by the FAA, contains parameters and requirements for the reporting of such information as audible thunder, ground fog, freezing rain, drizzle, ice 18

pellets, and snow depths. Level A and B airports, augmented by controllers and observers, include that information. Prior to the implementation of ASOS, commercial instrument flight rules (IFR) operation under FAR PART 121 and 135 were restricted at over 1,200 airports having standard instrument approach procedures (STARs) because of the absence of a local weather reporting service. Another 376 airports had only parttime service. ASOS provides information for increased IFR capabilities at those airports. At facilities not having ASOS, IFR commercial operations are still conducted, provided the commercial operator has established a Supplementary Aviation Weather Reporting Station (SAWRS) to satisfy the regulations. SAWRS observations are typically taken by the commercial operator only when needed and are not available to other users. Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) requires all airports having control zones to have weather observation services. All FAA-towered airports are eligible for installation of an ASOS based upon an analysis of cost effectiveness. Non-towered and non-federal towered airports are eligible, based on a ratio value computed by summing the benefits provided to each user class and dividing the sum by the life-cycle costs. If the ratio value is greater than one, the airport is eligible for ASOS. Should the value fall below .45, an existing ASOS facility is a candidate for discontinuance. ASOS are eligible for funding under the Airport Improvement Program. AWOS are more popular installations for airports because of its lower cost. The federal aviation regulations clearly specify that pilots have ultimate responsibility for the safe operation of their aircraft. Since only the pilot can make the necessary decisions about the operation of the aircraft, airports can help pilots reduce the adverse effects of weather on airport operations by the installation of ASOS equipment. Safe and efficient aviation operations are partially dependent on the degree to which airport operators can mentally formulate and visualize the continuously evolving weather situation. The ability of the pilot to visualize the weather will be made easier in the future as more modern weather depiction radar becomes available. Flight Service Stations have responsibility for disseminating Notices To Airmen (NOTAM). NOTAMs are entered into the FAA computer system at local Flight Service Stations (FSS) or at the Flight Data Center (FDC) in Washington, DC. Data submitted by the FDC relates to enroute navigational aid outages, changes to instrument approach procedures, or emergencies. That data can be of concern to local airports and impacts safety in the airport’s vicinity. Though the FSS will help in locating lost aircraft, the Rescue Coordination Center at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, VA, is primarily responsible for coordinating and tracking overdue aircraft or emergency locator transmissions (ELT) signals.


Future Weather Technologies
Through their ongoing modernization, the NWS and the FAA have collaborated to develop plans for new and enhanced capabilities, which, if implemented, will bring about a dramatic transformation in the accuracy, timeliness, and applicability of aviation weather information. Focusing on aviation-impacted variables and decision aids, the planned system offers the potential for achieving enhanced safety and efficiency. An example is the Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS) display. It integrates information from the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar and the Low Level Wind Shear Alert System. The ITWS provides detailed information and situational awareness for departing or arriving aircraft. It can also assists in the metering and spacing of both inbound and outbound traffic at an airport as a means of improving airfield capacity. Through the efforts of the Commerce, Defense, and Transportation Departments, Doppler and other weather reporting capabilities have improved weather reporting and detection systems. Next-Generation Radar (NEXRAD) uses Doppler techniques to detect not only precipitation, but also wind shear and severe weather.

The ability of the national airspace system to serve the growing demands of the flying public and cargo operators is dependent upon the ability of airports and the FAA air traffic control system to handle increased traffic. Efforts to improve airport capacity are centered on the construction and development of runways, taxiways, terminal facilities, roadway access, and navigational aids. There are also a number of administrative processes available to airport executives, which can help manage the demand. Not all capacity problems exist at the airport. Aircraft operating in the airspace encounter restrictions as a result of other factors such as weather and separation standards. Technological improvements in weather reporting, instrument and global positioning systems, and automated decision support all aid in improving overall system capability.


Study Questions
1. What are the different elements of the airport system? Where can capacity constraints occur within it? What is the difference between throughput capacity and practical capacity? What constitutes delay in relation to capacity? From what sources does the FAA gather delay data? What central factors and characteristics contribute to lowering system capacity or inducing delay? How can demand be managed? What are the benefits and drawbacks of the different methods for managing demand? Why are airport slots and their rules necessary? How do they affect capacity? What new technologies are being developed to alleviate capacity and delay problems at airports?


3. 4. 5.

6. 7.



10. How does the weather affect airport capacity? 11. How is weather information gathered? How is it disseminated throughout the aviation system?

12. What different levels of ASOS are available? 13. What do AAR, AMASS, ASQP, ATOMS, DSS, GPS, LAAS, LLWAS, NAS, NGAGCS, OASIS, PANCAP, PHOCAP, STARS, WAAS stand for?


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