Strategies to Evaluate Aircraft Routing Plans

Prepared By
New Jersey Institute of Technology
January 28, 1999


In 1987, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented the Expanded East Coast Plan (EECP) that altered approach and departure procedures at Newark, Kennedy, and LaGuardia Airports (all operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey). The EECP was developed to improve flight operations; it did not include an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). In 1990, the U.S. Congress mandated that the FAA prepare an EIS on the EECP.

Subsequent to the release of a draft of the EIS, the New Jersey Citizens for Environmental Research (NJCER) hired Glenn Bales (the former FAA official responsible for designing the EECP) to develop a rerouting plan. In June 1993, Bales produced a concept plan that utilized industrial waterways, ocean airspace, and higher aircraft altitudes for Newark International Airport departures and arrivals in order to reduce the noise impact on New Jersey.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) retained Leigh Fisher Associates to evaluate the routing plan developed by the NJCER. The Port Authority report, released in May 1994, indicated that the ocean routing plan would benefit significant numbers of residents from a noise perspective. However, the Port Authority report also indicated that delays at the three airports resulting from the proposed ocean routing would increase annual operating costs by $106 million.

On August 24, 1995, the New Jersey General Assembly Environment and Energy Committee, chaired by Assemblywoman Maureen Ogden, held a Public Hearing in Trenton to consider the FAA Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Expanded East Coast Plan and to hear suggestions for alternative aircraft routes and flight patterns over New Jersey. The testimony covered a wide range of perspectives and positions on the impact of the EIS. In addition to the public testimony, written testimony, reports, and letters also were submitted to the Committee by individuals, legislators, and the FAA. The eighty-seven page hearing transcript provides an overview of the issues and conflicts related to aircraft routing and noise. Copies of the transcript of the Hearing are available from the Office of Legislative Services, Hearing Unit, State House Annex, CN 058, Trenton, New Jersey 08625.

Between 1995 and the Fall of 1997, aircraft noise and the proposal to implement ocean routing for aircraft utilizing Newark International Airport remained highly visible and sensitive issues. The media gave frequent coverage to statements from stakeholders both in favor of and opposed to ocean routing. Individual citizens, elected officials, and organized groups continued to plead their case in letters to state and federal legislators, the Governor and to newspaper editors. In the Fall of 1997, Governor Christine Todd Whitman asked the New Jersey Department of Treasury to identify a clear set of principles, tools, resources, and methodologies that could be used to evaluate all aspects of an airport routing plan that could be accepted as valid by the State and other stakeholders.

Facing this difficult challenge, the Department of Treasury invited New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) to assist the State by conducting the necessary reviews and making recommendations on the best strategies to evaluate aircraft routing plans taking into account all possible factors, i.e., operational, environmental, and socio-economic. Before beginning the engagement, the NJIT Study Team concluded that the best approach to meet the State's objective would be to divide the effort into two phases. After considerable discussion on the scope of work, the Department of Treasury and NJIT Study Team agreed that Phase 1 would include:

An analysis of the Bales and the Leigh Fisher studies

An identification and delineation of key scientific principles, tools, resources, and methodologies required in an airport routing plan

A discussion of critical issues related to aircraft routing.

The NJIT Study Team and the State agreed that the scope of Phase 2 would be determined subsequent to Phase 1.

This report is the final deliverable of the Phase 1 engagement. Tasks completed in Phase 1 included:

Convening meetings with representatives of various stakeholders or interested parties to obtain material and information pertinent to this study, and to obtain data and hear perspectives, concerns, and recommendations related to routing studies and associated aircraft noise

Convening meetings with professionals involved in prior studies related to this proposal and involved in developing or implementing computer software used by aircraft noise specialists and route planners

Reviewing currently employed software models in the analysis of aircraft routes and reviewing a number of new models being evaluated by the FAA for possible use by the Agency

Reviewing the 1993 conceptual ocean routing plan prepared on behalf of the New Jersey Citizens for Environmental Research (NJCER)

Reviewing the 1994 Leigh Fisher report prepared on behalf of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in response to the NJCER report

Reviewing the critique of the Leigh Fisher Report prepared by Samis & Hamilton and GeoSpec, Inc. on behalf of the NJCER Reviewing comments by Leigh Fisher Associates related to the above noted critiques by Samis & Hamilton and GeoSpec, Inc.

Conducting independent research related to aircraft routing and associated noise and economic impact

As part of a general review of issues related to aircraft routing, the NJIT Study Team also conducted preliminary research on the following issues.

An assessment of the potential impact on real estate values associated with various routing scenarios

An assessment of the potential impact on revised traffic control procedures associated with various routing scenarios.

A general assessment of the contributions of Newark International Airport to the region's economy

Meetings Convened by NJIT To Gather Information


March 23, 1998

NJ Governor's Office, NJ Department of Treasury,
Trenton, NJ

April 2, 1998NJCER/NJCAAN, NJITNJIT, Newark, NJ
April 9, 1998

PANYNJ Aviation Department, FAA Eastern Region
Air Traffic Division, Airspace Branch, NJIT
World Trade Center,
April 9, 1998Samis & Hamilton, NJITNJIT, Newark, NJ
April 30, 1998GeoSpec, Inc., NJCER/NJCAAN, NJITNJIT, Newark, NJ
May 5, 1998PANYNJ Aviation Department, NJITWTC, NYC, NY
May 12, 1998Metron, PANYNJ Aviation Department, NJITWTC, NYC, NY
May 19, 1998NJCER/NJCAAN, NJITNJIT, Newark, NJ
May 29, 1998Continental Airlines, NJITNJIT, Newark, NJ
July 8, 1998

FAA Eastern Region Air Traffic Division
Airspace Branch, NJIT
NJIT, Newark, NJ

July 23, 1998Air Transport Association, Federal Express, NJITNJIT, Newark, NJ
July 27, 1998

NJIT representatives attended a public meeting
held by the FAA to discuss aircraft routing
Newark, NJ

Dec. 4, 1998

Meetings with NJIT, Governorís Office, PANYNJ,
FAA, industry and citizen representatives
NJIT, Newark

Abbreviations: NJCAAN = New Jersey Citizens Against Airport Noise; NJCER = New Jersey Citizens for Environmental Research; NJIT = New Jersey Institute of Technology; PANYNJ = Port Authority of New York-New Jersey.

Findings and Recommendations

The following findings and recommendations suggest both short-term and long-term strategies for mitigating noise, improving air traffic flows, and protecting the robust economy of the region. It is important to keep in mind that projected increased air traffic in the New Jersey and New York metropolitan area will exacerbate the noise, and traffic delay, problems facing the region. Consequently, the Study Team recommends that the interim actions proposed in this report be initiated without delay.

Finding 1

Source control is a most effective means to reduce noise impact. Source control includes replacement of stage 2 aircraft with new stage 3 aircraft, reengining, and "hushkiting" aircraft. The Airport Noise and Capacity Act (PL101-508) passed in 1990, requires the phase out of stage 2 aircraft. FAA 14 CFR part 91 and 161 (February 28, 1991) requires phaseout of stage 2 aircraft greater than 75,000 pound takeoff weight by December 31, 1999 in the contiguous 48 states. The rules affect about 7500 planes registered in the United States. Waivers are possible, but the FAA reports that of the 16 requests for exemptions, 15 have been rejected and one is under consideration.

Recommendation 1

Efforts to reduce aircraft noise at the source should be continued. Improvements beyond stage 3 aircraft should be continued and implemented when available. This will require congressional action and policy support from FAA.

Finding 2

Reconfiguration of the national airspace is a formidable task and time-lines to complete the task are not yet clear. Some have estimated that the national airspace reconfiguration could take up to five or six years to implement fully. Innovative use of aircraft routing modeling has the potential to shorten the time needed for full implementation. Inadequate funding could delay full implementation of the FAA airspace reconfiguration.

Recommendation 2

It is important that Congressional funding for the FAA airspace reconfiguration be adequate to the requirements of this massive challenge. In addition, Congress should provide funding to allow the FAA to accelerate the redesign of the national airspace.

Finding 3

New technological tools have the potential to dramatically improve human and equipment performance. Investment in improved air traffic technology is much needed at Newark International Airport and in aircraft utilizing Newark.

A number of important initiatives by airlines and FAA already are underway to improve operations and noise mitigation at Newark. For example, Continental is scheduled to have replaced all of its Stage 2 aircraft with new Stage 3 aircraft by March 1999. In addition, the recently implemented Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS) will improve safety by providing pilots and controllers better weather information. ITWS can better predict weather changes to enhance runway usage. Controllers can plan ahead for wind changes and accompanying runway usage adjustments.

Other important developments underway are FAAís enhancement of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the operational Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). GPS satellite signals will be tested for error at ground stations, and a correction signal will be generated. GPS can have a significant effect on environmentally sensitive routing decisions. When an augmented GPS is fully implemented, closer aircraft spacing could be approved and more precise aircraft flight tracks will be possible over desirable corridors. An operational WAAS should be phased in between years 1999 and 2001. A Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS) to replace instrument landing systems should follow.

Recommendation 3

Priority attention and increased federal funding and private investments must be made to expedite implementation of the needed air traffic technology improvements. Increased funding is required even if additional fees need to be assessed.

The FAA and Port Authority should fund, implement, and maintain an aggressive technology investment program to assure state-of-the-art equipment and systems for both groundside and airside operations. At a minimum, needed improvements include implementation of: The Controller Automated Spacing Aid (CASA), which would allow for simultaneous use of Runways 11 and 22L; The Teterboro Airport ILS Runway 19 project, which would allow for simultaneous non-conflicting instrument approaches to Newark and Teterboro; and The departure spacing program, which would eliminate current manual flight processing and significantly reduce departure delays during severe weather.

Finding 4

On July 14, 1998, the FAA launched a multi-year comprehensive project to redesign the nationís airspace. The project will begin by reconfiguring the New Jersey and New York metropolitan area airspace. The Fiscal Year 1999 federal budget includes funding for this effort. Objectives of the airspace reconfiguration scheme include an attempt to optimize aircraft operations, while giving full weight to noise impact on affected communities.

The principles, tools and resources recommended in this report should be helpful to the FAA in preparing a routing plan that gives fair consideration to the interests of all stakeholders. Substantial evidence indicates that the FAA should be able to draw up a new aircraft routing plan that would:

reduce environmental and, in particular, community noise impact

minimize delays

minimize cost increases to carriers

minimize controller workload changes

minimize limitations on airport operations and capacity

optimize a combination of the above considerations

A redesign of airspace should begin at the runway with the optimization of arrival and departure configurations. This approach differs significantly from a traditional approach for airspace redesign that begins with the air flight. Starting with a detailed analysis of runway use and working back through the approach system will provide dynamic opportunities to maximize utilization of airport facilities -- a major factor in preventing delays and improving efficiencies.

Recommendation 4

The PANYNJ and FAA should initiate immediately a runway optimization study that would determine real time runway movements in an effort to facilitate maximum utilization of airport facilities. Research and development of a runway optimization tool, such as the Surface Movement Advisory (SMA) in Atlanta, should be an integral part of the study.

Finding 5

The routing scenarios in the NJCER and the Leigh Fisher studies provided benchmarks for discussion and debate over the last five years. Future planning requires the analysis of additional routing scenarios not considered in the NJCER or the Leigh Fisher studies. Recent advances in computer software and hardware make it possible to consider an array of different routing plans at reasonable cost.

It is not necessary to apply a "go-no-go gauge" to routing plans. If aspects of a conceptual routing plan appear to be flawed, "what-if" analysis has the capability of providing minor changes that could make what previously appeared to be unacceptable alternatives to be concepts worthy of consideration.

The Study Team discussed many alternative routing scenarios with representatives of the NJCER, the Port Authority, the FAA, Continental Airlines, FedEx, and the Air Transport Association. The rationale for considering these alternative routing plans is addressed in this report.

Recommendation 5

Previous routing scenarios should not limit the redesign of the New Jersey and New York airspace. Rather, the redesign should include comprehensive analyses of an array of routing scenarios not yet considered. One or more ocean routing plans should be considered and compared with existing routing.

Finding 6

The NJIT Study Team found that NJCER, the Port Authority, and other stakeholders agree substantially on a number of computer models that could be employed in conducting aircraft routing.

The NJIT Study Team also found substantial agreement among the parties that accommodations could be made by air traffic controllers in the implementation of an ocean routing plan at Newark International Airport without compromising safety.

While the NJIT Study Team found agreement on acceptable computer models and on the primacy of safety, NJCER and the Port Authority differ measurably on what is the appropriate input data that routing plan models must utilize in performing routing studies. Differences include data related to:

allocation of propeller driven aircraft to various runways

appropriate separation time and distance to provide for departing aircraft.

The above differences are critical because the varying data produce vastly different operating costs when used to compare proposed ocean routes to the present routing of aircraft at Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia Airports.

Recommendation 6

As a matter of public and economic policy, the differences related to input data requirements should be resolved early in the FAA airspace redesign. If these issues remain unresolved, controversy will continue regarding any proposed aircraft routing. Such controversy could lead to process delays and litigation among stakeholders. Such developments could have serious negative consequences for the quality of life and economic vitality of the region.

Continued in Part Two