The National Academies

ACRP Synthesis 11-03/Topic S03-14 [Active (Synthesis)]

Simulation Options for Airport Planning
[ ACRP 11-03 (Synthesis of Information Related to Airport Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $45,000
Authorization to Begin Work: 2/1/2017 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Thomas J. Helms
Research Agency: Cignus Consulting, LLC
Principal Investigator: Florian Hafner
Effective Date: 5/30/2017
Fiscal Year: 2017

Final Scope

Airports are the places where the nation’s air transportation system connects with other modes of transportation. Airports also contain the boundary where the control authority over the conduct of a flight changes over from the FAA to the airline or other local, non-FAA authority (e.g., gate aprons). Airports also manage the dynamics of passenger flows moving through passenger-terminal areas to/from aircraft. Furthermore, airports are dynamic environments, with constant operational (e.g., new security procedures) and physical (e.g., new construction) changes in progress.

In such a dynamic and interconnected environment, simulation can play a big role in the planning of operational/physical changes. Credible airport simulation helps airport administrators, engineers and planners estimate the impact of planned changes on passenger traffic, aircraft traffic, baggage movements, and other sub-processes. In the past couple of decades, airport simulation techniques have improved considerably because simulation developers have incorporated deeper understanding of the complex and intricate relationships governing airport operations into the simulation programs. Moreover, rapid advances in computer hardware technologies, software systems and parallel processing techniques have enabled simulation developers to add intricate data analytics and machine learning based models into the simulation programs. Today, all major airport development efforts involve the use of airport modeling and simulation, at some level, particularly in airport master plans, airport–airspace capacity studies, terminal studies, curbside capacity studies and assessment of airport impacts on the environment.

There are a large number of available simulation tools for modeling air traffic on the air-side, i.e., on the airport surfaces and in near-airport airspace regions. There are also multiple software programs available that can model passenger flows inside the airport terminal buildings as well as related processes such as baggage movement, i.e., ground-side processes. An airport planner, researcher or administrator would greatly benefit from a survey of available simulation tools and related modeling/analysis capabilities, because it will provide information on the capabilities of individual tools, how they can be integrated together to achieve broader analyses, and what are the current capability gaps. Equipped with such a survey, airport planners/researchers/administrators will be able to select simulation tools most appropriate for the investigation under consideration and thereby increase the effectiveness and reliability of the ensuing analysis.

This synthesis study will explore existing airport simulation tools capable of simulating either ground access, terminal, airfield, or airspace. The study will also include information on how the simulation tools are used at large and medium hub airports and what benefit they provide. The study will also identify capability-gaps in existing tools, and propose research for filling these gaps.

The principal investigator will review literature and conduct a survey of a representative sample of airports, including selected interviews.

A concise report will be generated that summarizes the results of the literature review, survey and interviews. The report will include exemplary practices for simulation modeling for airport planning, as well as gaps in knowledge and recommended research.

The report should identify the following:
• Why airports use simulation/modeling tools
• Commonly used/available simulation and modeling tools
• Typical applications of the tools
• Resources required to utilize the tools
• Types of input required
• Output and uses of output, including visualization capabilities
• Appropriate use of numerical models in lieu of simulation/modeling tools

The report should include a matrix summarizing commonly used/available simulation and modeling tools, including their applications and functionality. In addition, the report should include considerations when undertaking a simulation/modeling project to identify best candidate tools

Survey should include a minimum of ten (10) airports, representing both large hub airports and medium hub airports, and five (5) airport planning consultants.

Information Sources:
• ACRP Research Report 25, Airport Passenger Terminal Planning and Design, Volume 1: Guidebook, 2010
• ACRP Research Report 79, Evaluating Airfield Capacity, 2012
• ACRP Research Report 104, Defining and Measuring Aircraft Delay and Airport Capacity Thresholds, 2014
• ACRP Research Report 55, Passenger Level of Service and Spatial Planning for Airport Terminals,” 2011
• IATA Airport Design Reference Manual, Vol. 10 

Topic Panel 
Jennifer Dermody, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority
Michael Floyd, Parrish and Partners
Christine Gerencher, Transportation Research Board 
Eugene Gilbo, Volpe Center (Retired)
Brent Kelley, Corgan 
Majed Khater, Clark County Department of Aviation
Christopher Oswald, Airports Council International – North America
William Reinhardt, Federal Aviation Administration 
Rongfang “Rachel” Liu, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Erik Wilkins, Ricondo & Associates, Inc. 

Thomas Helms
email: thelms@nas.edu
phone: 703-835-9191

First meeting: May 10, 2017, Washington, DC 
Teleconference: May 30, 2017 
Second meeting: November 14, 2017




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