MIT to co-lead CoE for aviation environment, fuel

October 14, 2013

The Federal Aviation Administration has named MIT to co-lead its new Air Transportation Center of Excellence for the Environment and Alternate Jet Fuels.

MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics’ International Center for Air Transportation (ICAT) and Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment (LAE) will lead the CoE’s research in meeting the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System aviation environmental impact goals. Washington State University will co-lead the CoE, concentrating on aviation alternative fuels research.

ICAT director Professor R. John Hansman will head the CoE’s MIT program office. ICAT will focus on environmentally efficient operations; LAE, under the direction of Professor Steven Barrett, will research the broad environmental impact of aviation.

“This Center will be an important contributor to developing sustainable approaches to aviation,” Hansman said. “And, sustainability is one of the most important things we can do to strengthen the future of air transportation. In this new Center of Excellence, the FAA has assembled an exceptional team combining expertise in all important aspects of the challenge.”

MIT and Washington State will coordinate the efforts of the 16 COE research partners, which include Boston University, Oregon State University, Purdue University, the University of Dayton, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Washington, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, the University of Hawaii, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Tennessee.

The FAA’s COE program is a cost-sharing research partnership among academia, industry and the federal government. The FAA anticipates providing the COE with $4 million a year during the Center’s 10-year lifespan.

The selected university members have nationally recognized environmental and aviation-related education programs. The schools’ leading engineering and science faculty will perform the research with substantial engagement of graduate and undergraduate students and post-doctoral staff.

“The FAA continues its goal to improve National Airspace System energy efficiency by at least two percent per year, and to develop and deploy alternative jet fuels for commercial aviation, with a target of one billion gallons of alternate jet fuel in use by 2018,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “This Center of Excellence is a valuable tool to provide the critical data we need to reach these goals.”

The FAA has established Centers of Excellence with more than 75 universities conducting research and education in such areas as commercial space transportation, airliner cabin environment and intermodal research, aircraft noise and aviation emissions mitigation, advanced materials, general aviation, airworthiness assurance, operations research, airport pavement and airport technology, and computational modeling of aircraft structures.

Results of the research conducted through these centers has resulted in enhancements to policy, guidance and overall safety improvements in many areas, including: remote airport lighting, updated training methodologies for aviation safety inspectors, advancements in Automatic Dependent Surveillance/Broadcast, helipad lighting enhancements for emergency medical services, a national general aviation flight information database, a national wildlife database, and reduction of aircraft approach fuel burn by 10-20 percent.