Emerging new aircraft types, such as Cruise-Efficient Short Take-Off and Landing (CESTOL) transport aircraft, have the potential to positively affect the efficiency and capacity of the NextGen Air Transportation System, according to research recently completed by Sensis Corporation and its project team.
Under the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate contract Integration of Advanced Concepts and Vehicles into the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), the team analyzed the impact of five advanced vehicles in NextGen scenarios. In addition to a CESTOL vehicle, the team investigated Large Commercial Tiltrotor Aircraft (LCTR), an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), a Very Light Jet (VLJ) and a Supersonic Transport (SST). NASA is currently evaluating the data and recommendations that were generated by the project. The Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) has indicated that projected future travel demand in 2025 is only 80% accommodated if NextGen is implemented without taking into account these new vehicles, said Ken Kaminski, vice president of Sensis Advanced Development. Depending on how these new vehicles are incorporated, the unique performance characteristics of each vehicle can address potential shortfalls in accommodating future travel demands. Through the study, the Sensis team comprised of Sensis Corporation, Georgia Tech, CSSI, Inc., ATAC Corporation, L-3 Communications, Honeywell and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology examined the five vehicles in terms of performance, safety and environmental impact. In the area of performance, the research determined that CESTOL and LCTR have the highest potential to positively affect passenger capacity as CESTOLs and LCTRs could serve underused airports in dense metroplex regions (a complex regional airspace encompassing multiple airports of varying size) as well as fly arrival and departure routes into congested major airports that are procedurally separate from the conventional traffic routes. Many large airports have shorter runways that are underutilized today and, by utilizing these, the CESTOL and LCTR provide significant new runway capacity. The combination of these benefits, realizable under NextGen methodologies, is a significant improvement in capacity and reliability at the nations most congested airports and along many of the most congested routes. In terms of safety, each vehicle operates in some new and unique ways and therefore poses unique safety considerations that need to be addressed with vehicle-specific procedural, training and technological solutions. This study identified critical safety issues such as a CESTOLs approach and descent characteristics and VLJ risks associated with potentially shifting the number of flight crew from two to one to meet operational financial requirements. The research also provided a high level examination of both system-wide climate impact and metroplex-scale air quality and noise impact based on the New York City (NYC) metroplex. System-wide climate impact was as expected; since the new vehicles increased the traffic (and passenger capacity) there was a corresponding increase in fuel burn and emissions just as if there had been an increase in conventional traffic. The results highlighted the importance of achieving greater operational efficiencies in new vehicles as they become a larger part of our air transportation system and that was indeed shown. In the NextGen NYC metroplex scenario, fewer emissions (in terms of particulate matter) were predicted for the metroplex area and noise analysis of the CESTOL vehicles operating in the New York metroplex area led to a reduction in the total population exposed to a given noise level due to the vehicles unique approach that provided less time at low altitude. This NASA sponsored research establishes that these new vehicles hold great promise to positively impact air travel in the future, particularly in terms of meeting the projected air travel demand without adversely affecting overall NAS performance, said Kaminski. Now is the time to start developing the unique processes and tools needed to effectively incorporate them into NextGen in a safe manner as these vehicles possess different performance characteristics than conventional aircraft. In addition to this NextGen vehicle research, Sensis has completed numerous modeling, simulation and analysis projects for NASA, JPDO, FAA and other industry and academic organizations. Sensis is a leader in modeling, simulation and analysis of the potential impact of future airspace and airport improvements. Through its fast-time and real-time capabilities, Sensis can generate current and future air traffic demand scenarios, provide system-wide or regional simulations to evaluate current and future air traffic management concepts, and analyze and visualize simulation results.