The impact of new aircraft types on NextGen

Emerging new aircraft types, such as Very Light Jets (VLJ) and Cruise-Efficient Short TakeOff and Landing (CESTOL) aircraft, have the potential to positively affect the efficiency and capacity of the NextGen Air Transportation System, according to research recently completed by Sensis Corp. and its project team.

Under a 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 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 as well as fly arrival and departure routes into congested major airports that are procedurally separate from 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, researchers note.

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, researchers said. This study identified several critical safety issues, such as a risks with VLJs associated with potentially shifting the number of flight crew from two to one to meet financial requirements.

“This 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.”

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