Analysis of Missions Specifications

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Future reductions of fuel burn and green house gas emissions from commercial aviation will be, in large part, achieved through the development and use of more fuel- and environmentally-efficient aircraft. Achieving significant efficiency improvements at the aircraft level may require opening up the design space so as to consider changes in aircraft design mission specifications/capabilities such as lower cruise speed, different payload-range characteristics, and longer wing span. However, there are potentially serious and unforeseen system-wide implications (economics, viability, delays, manufacturability, etc.) that could result from these changes and that have not yet been quantified properly. The main objective of this project is to understand and quantify these implications so that informed decisions can be made.

To accomplish these goals, one needs to first assess the full potential of these changes for fuel efficiency improvements at the individual aircraft level. More importantly, specific approaches to be followed (and their combinations) need to be prioritized to focus on those that provide the largest potential benefit in combination with what could be achieved by technology improvements alone. Second, there is a lack of understanding of how aircraft with such changes in mission specifications could impact both airlines’ operations / economics and the ability of manufacturers to produce multiple models at reasonable costs. These assessments can be performed through parametric analysis of airline and manufacturer economics and result in a cost abatement evaluation of both individual aircraft mission specifications changes and their combinations. This understanding will allow the propagation of aircraft-level improvements to the fleet level in order to assess system-wide benefits. Finally, the potential aircraft mission specification changes may have operational implications at the local and National Airspace System level. Understanding these operational implications will be critical to assessing whether the current NextGen concepts of operations and future capabilities (i.e., in the 2020-2030 time frame) will permit, enable, or impede the introduction of these new vehicles into the NAS. Collaborations with Project 30 are expected.

Anticipated outcome

The expected outcomes of this project include: an assessment of the potential of mission specification changes, in combination with technology improvements, to increase the environmental efficiency of the air transportation system, an understanding of the system-level implications of such mission specification changes, and an understanding of the modifications necessary to the NextGen ConOps in order to seamlessly accommodate the changes that may take place.

Participating universities

Stanford University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Lead investigator

Juan J. Alonso, Stanford University

FAA program manager

Christopher Dorbian
Pat Moran (past program manager)