En route speed optimization for continuous descent arrival

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Lowther, Marcus Benjamin
Clarke, John-Paul B.
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Continuous Descent Arrival (CDA) procedures have been shown to minimize the thrust required during landing, thereby reducing noise, emissions, and fuel usage for commercial aircraft. Thus, implementation of CDA at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world's busiest airport, would result in significant reductions in environmental impact and airline operating costs. The Air Transportation Laboratory at Georgia Tech, Delta Air Lines, and the local FAA facilities (Atlanta Center and Atlanta TRACON) collaborated to design CDA procedures for early morning arrivals from the west coast. Using the Tool for Analysis of Separation and Throughput (TASAT), we analyzed the performance of various aircraft types over a wide range of weights and wind conditions to determine the optimum descent profile parameters and to find the required spacing between aircraft types at a fixed metering point to implement the procedure. However, to see the full benefits of CDA, these spacing targets must be adhered, lest there will be a loss in capacity or negation of the noise, emissions, and fuel savings benefits. Thus a method was developed to determine adjustments to cruise speeds while aircraft are still en route, to achieve these spacing targets and to optimize fleet wide fuel burn increase. The tool in development, En route Speed Change Optimization Relay Tool (ESCORT), has been shown to solve the speed change problem quickly, incorporating aircraft fuel burn information and dividing the speed changes fairly across multiple airlines. The details of this tool will be explained in this thesis defense. Flight tests were conducted in April-May of 2007, where it was observed that the spacing targets developed by TASAT were accurate but that delivery of these aircraft to the metering point with the desired spacing targets was very challenging without automation. Thus, further flight tests will be conducted in 2008 using the en route spacing tool described above to validate the improvement it provides in terms of accurately delivering aircraft to the metering point.
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