The National Academies

ACRP 03-20 [Final]

Defining and Measuring Aircraft Delay and Airport Capacity Thresholds

  Project Data
Funds: $250,000
Research Agency: TransSolutions
Principal Investigator: Belinda Hargrove
Effective Date: 8/30/2010
Completion Date: 12/31/2013
Comments: Results published as ACRP Report 104


Aircraft delay and airport capacity are both important issues within the industry. Significant investments are being made within the nation’s aviation system to provide additional capacity, including new runways, airspace improvements, and new technologies. While it is generally recognized that many of our nation’s airports have deficient capacity resulting in significant delays, there are often misunderstandings and conflicting guidance as to how to measure delays and establish capacity “thresholds” to help determine when additional capacity is needed and/or cost-justifiable. In addition, the methods used to quantify delay and capacity can be highly technical and data-intensive. Moreover, various stakeholders define and measure delay and capacity differently, while those outside the industry (decision makers and the general public, for example) may not understand why just a few minutes of average annual delay per aircraft operation might warrant spending millions for capacity improvements. Finally, there is no readily available source summarizing each of the various metrics and their appropriate uses. Research is therefore needed to provide guidance to airports and other stakeholders on applicable aircraft delay and airport capacity criteria, and the interrelationships between these criteria, to help them identify the most appropriate metrics for their particular situation. Such research would help practitioners understand the various definitions of delay and capacity, and ultimately, may improve support for capacity-related projects.


The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook that: (1) inventories and describes the different aircraft delay and airport capacity metrics used within the industry and (2) offers guidance about various delay and capacity metrics and when they should be used, particularly within the context of evaluating capacity enhancements. The research should also evaluate the ability of current metrics to quantify delays and provide recommendations for metric improvements.


Research is complete.  Results are published as ACRP Report 104.

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