Drucella Andersen Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

September 30, 1993 (Phone: 202/358-4727) Keith Henry Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. (Phone: 804/864-6120) Hank Price Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, D.C. (Phone: 202/267-3447) RELEASE: 93-172 NASA/FAA RESEARCH AIMS AT MORE EFFICIENT AIRSPACE OPERATIONS NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today described innovative new aeronautics research programs that will let airports across the nation and around the world handle more planes with fewer delays while maintaining today's high level of safety. "Delays not only inconvenience travelers, but also cost U.S. airlines hundreds of millions of dollars annually," said Herbert Schlickenmaier, Program Manager at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. "We want to solve that problem with affordable, human-centered automated tools in the cockpit and on the ground." A key NASA/FAA research effort called the Terminal Area Productivity program is studying how to achieve aircraft separation distances in low-visibility conditions similar to those allowed under visual flight rules for both single and multiple runway operations. This would let airports handle the same number of flights in almost any weather.

Researchers first need to understand today's safety levels to assess new technologies and come up with new procedures and modified separation criteria. NASA and the FAA are using today's operations as a benchmark. They will then create new standards that reduce separation distances while assuring safety. -more-


The results will be tested in 1995 based on studies of wake vortex phenomena -- swirling air currents that stream from an aircraft's wingtips and cause turbulence for following planes. Current FAA rules for pilots and air traffic controllers specify vortex separation distances based on aircraft type, weather and visibility. NASA researchers believe new technology for ground-based sensing of weather conditions can reliably predict when wake vortex separations can be reduced safely. These forecasts will be incorporated into the NASA/FAA Center/TRACON Automation System, a set of computerized tools that helps controllers orchestrate aircraft arrivals. If the effort succeeds, controllers also would have at least 20 minutes notice that a combination of weather conditions and aircraft types may create a wake vortex hazard. NASA also is researching advanced instruments and cockpit displays that would let airline pilots fly and land safely in very-low-visibility conditions. This would greatly increase the number of flights in poor weather, decrease delays and help airlines cut operating costs. A computer would fuse data from infrared sensors, radar and cameras into realistic electronic cockpit displays on which pilots could "see" the runway and other airplanes through fog, rain and snow. The image probably would appear with helpful superimposed symbols in a "heads-up display" -- a glass screen that also lets

pilots see though the front windows. NASA researchers believe that this "enhanced vision" technology could be ready for service in commercial airliners before the year 2000. The Terminal Area Productivity and enhanced vision research plans were outlined at a joint NASA/FAA windshear conference in Hampton, Va. - end -