Near-Term Operational Changes

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Concerns about the aviation's environmental impact have prompted research efforts around the world. Much of this research has focused on changes to future aircraft and engine designs: although these hold the prospect of significant environmental impact reductions on a per flight basis, it will take a long time for them to be developed and propagate through the operational fleet in sufficient numbers to have a significant impact on overall emission levels. Until then, strategies that reduce the environmental impacts of existing aircraft are needed. Therefore, there is a need to identify and evaluate ways to reduce the environmental impacts of aviation in the near term. Such changes would involve minor adjustments to operating procedures or limited equipment/infrastructure changes. Several potential approaches have been suggested and investigated in various depths. For example, Continuous Descent Approaches (PARTNER Project 4) have been investigated extensively through field trials and show notable environmental impact reduction. In contrast, work on advanced surface movement optimization (PARTNER Project 21) is still largely in the research stage, while other possible changes have yet to be fully defined, let alone studied in any significant depth. Project 32 will systematically evaluate and rank all the potential near-term operational changes against a common set of environmental impact and feasibility criteria, and hence make it possible to determine the relative potential of the various options and to understand which ones should be given priority.

Anticipated outcome

A set of potential environmental impact mitigation options, ranked in terms of environmental impact and feasibility of implementation. The most promising mitigation options will be quantitatively evaluated and implementation plans for these options will be developed based on our identification of individual stakeholder costs and benefits.

Participating universities

Purdue University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Lead investigators

Karen B. Marais, Assistant Professor, School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Purdue University,
R. John Hansman, Professor, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT,
Tom G. Reynolds, Research Engineer, MIT Lincoln Laboratory

Project manager

Christopher Dorbian
Pat Moran (past program manager)


Evaluation of Potential Near-term Operational Changes to Mitigate Environmental Impacts of Aviation. Marais, K., T. G. Reynolds, P. Uday, D. Muller, J. Lovegren, J-M. Dumont & R. J. Hansman, Journal of Aerospace Engineering, Journal of Aerospace Engineering, 227:8, August 2013