The National Academies

ACRP 03-12 [Completed]

Guidebook for Preparing Peak-Period and Operational Profiles to Improve Airport Facility Planning and Environmental Analyses

  Project Data
Funds: $350,000
Research Agency: HNTB Corporation
Principal Investigator: Patrick Kennon
Effective Date: 8/13/2008
Completion Date: 11/30/2012

Forecasts of annual aviation activity, including the FAA’s Terminal Area Forecasts (TAFs), are widely available and commonly used as the basis for aviation planning and environmental analyses at commercial airports. However, comparable forecasts of hourly or daily aviation activity—required to plan and analyze aircraft movements and passenger flows, to program terminal building and other airport facilities, and to support environmental studies and remediation needs—are not readily available. In addition, hourly or daily activity forecasts that are available can vary significantly, depending on the operational profile of a particular airport. Most planning studies use either (1) peak-hour of the average-day of a peak-month (PHADPM) or a standard busy rate (SBR), or (2) a detailed and comprehensive analysis of future airline schedules, aircraft sizes and load factors, passenger activity statistics, and growth and development trends at the subject airport. There are difficulties with both of these approaches. Use of PHADPM and SBR assumes there will be little or no fluctuation in the future in terms of the percentage of annual aviation activity that occurs during a design hour or design day, a questionable assumption given ongoing changes in the industry, airline operating patterns, and aircraft use. Use of either approach often assumes that a single hour of the day (or day of the month) can provide an appropriate basis for future planning, environmental analysis, and design. Furthermore, these procedures do not allow an airport operator to evaluate operational, customer service, or financial implications that may result from using alternative peak periods (i.e., the 90th, 95th, or 98th percentile hours) to plan airport facilities.  In addition, forecasts prepared using these procedures often fail to address extreme peaks, seasonal variations, directional peaks (i.e., inbound, outbound, or connecting flows), or to recognize that individual components of an airport can and do peak at different times of the day. 

Continued use of these forecasting procedures may result in airport operators building future airport facilities not directly correlated with forecast needs. As a result, enhanced procedures for forecasting daily and peak-hour passenger activity are necessary.
The objective of this research is to prepare a guidebook enabling airport operators to define more effectively airport peak-period and operational profiles necessary for facility and environmental planning. This guidebook will include an analytical toolbox and associated application and implementation procedures.  The analytical components of the toolbox will include a software program suitable for use by airport professionals in preparation of peak-period and operational forecasts used in facility and environmental planning. Procedures incorporated in the guidebook will make use of historical data and existing, available forecasts (including FAA TAFs, master plan forecasts, and related environmental study forecasts), building on current best practices to forecast future flight schedules. 

The guidebook will help airport facility managers and operators evaluate (a) capacity requirements and operational improvements (e.g., examine how common-use or preferential gate use can accommodate increased passenger demand); (b) implications of designing facilities to accommodate alternative peak periods (e.g., those occurring more or less frequently); and (c) specific facility requirements as a function of larger-scale control totals (e.g., annual passengers or aircraft operations). The guidebook and associated toolbox will enhance the ability of airport operators to address demand and operational constraints and enable users to create alternative growth and development scenarios by analyzing effects of potential change in aircraft, passenger, demographic, environmental and other relevant factors. 

Status:  The guidebook and supporting materials has been completed and published as ACRP Report 82

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