Aircraft operations counts are used in aviation systems planning, airport master plans, environmental studies, aviation forecasts, as well as to determine funding and design criteria for the nation's airports. At airports with control towers, aircraft operations are tracked and recorded by air traffic control. However, of the more than 5,300 public use airports in the United States, only 546 have towers, and most of the towered airports are not open at all times. This results in airports having to estimate operations counts, which, in the case of non-full-time towers, can result in potential undercounting. Airports, as well as state and metropolitan planning agencies, use various methods to estimate aircraft activity when tower counts are not available. The most common methods have traditionally relied on guest logs, fuel sales, visual observation, automatic counters, and acoustical counters. ACRP Synthesis 4: Counting Aircraft Operations at Non-Towered Airports (published in 2007) described the different methods of counting and estimating aircraft operations, and provided an initial recommendation for best practices. The study, however, was completed prior to recent advances in technology (such as the use of video data capturing devices) and, due to its limited scope, did not include a program to test the different methods. Research is needed to identify, test, and evaluate the various methods for obtaining aircraft operations counts at non-towered airports. This should be done in a manner that will help airports select the most appropriate method for their needs.
The objective of this research is to identify, test, and evaluate methods for obtaining aircraft operations counts at non-towered airports.
Research complete. Results are published in ACRP Report 129.