The National Academies

ACRP 03-34 [Completed]

NextGen—Understanding the Airport's Role in Performance-Based Navigation (PBN)

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Research Agency: Saab Sensis Corporation
Principal Investigator: Sebastian Timar
Effective Date: 5/25/2014
Completion Date: 2/8/2016


“NextGen” is an umbrella term for the ongoing transformation of the National Airspace System (NAS) and is a focus of an ACRP NextGen initiative for FY 2014. This initiative encompasses five distinct projects, which will be conducted simultaneously. ACRP Project 03-34, which is included in this initiative, concentrates on the satellite-based navigational improvements of the overall program. ACRP will be coordinating and sharing scope, ideas, and preliminary results among all five projects that include the following:
  • ACRP Project 01-27, NextGen—A Primer;
  • ACRP Project 01-28, NextGen—Guidance for Engaging Airport Stakeholders;
  • ACRP Project 03-33, NextGen—Airport Planning and Development;
  • ACRP Project 03-34, NextGen—Understanding the Airport’s Role in Performance-Based Navigation (PBN); and
  • ACRP Project 09-12, NextGen—Leveraging NextGen Spatial Data to Benefit Airports.
The term NextGen has usually been applied to any emerging method or technology that is expected or intended to supersede present-day ground-based airspace navigation systems. For the ACRP NextGen initiative, a focused definition is desired. So, the term “NextGen” shall refer to a number of federal programs (predominately airspace, air traffic, or avionics related) that are designed to modernize the NAS. Aspects of some of these programs, or the enabling practices, data, and technologies resulting from them, will affect airports and change how they operate.

Some of the known or anticipated airport-relevant effects that are expected from NextGen include the following:
  • Safety–situational/proximity awareness, incident recovery;
  • Efficiency–aircraft fuel savings, airspace utilization, landside operations and performance, airside operations and maintenance;
  • Environment–emissions reductions, noise distribution;
  • Reliability–consistency in practice, international aircraft procedure/avionics standardization, improved access to airports; and
  • Planning/design–customer service, facility use, demands for infrastructure.
Because of the technical nature of NextGen and the fact that much of the material previously produced has not been oriented toward airport operators, much about NextGen and how it will affect airport operations and planning may not be clear to the broader airport audience. Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) is a critical near-term component of the NextGen program. Design and implementation of PBN will have significance for airports of all sizes. Development of PBN procedures is currently underway, or will be underway shortly, in a number of communities. Involvement by airport operators is essential for successful implementation; and potential opportunities exist for realizing operational and environmental benefits as well as improvements to safety, reliability, and efficiencies of air services to the community. To maximize their productivity, airport operators need to have an understanding of the FAA design and implementation procedures, and have the means to identify and monitor metrics of expected benefits and impacts of these procedures so they can report back to their communities. To help implement that program, the aviation community needs comprehensive and understandable information concerning PBN, presented in a usable and accessible format—describing implementation requirements, related benefits, and potential costs.


The objective of this research is to prepare a user-friendly “Airport PBN Resource Guide” that presents essential, relevant material for use by airport operators, planners, managers, and others. The guide should include background information, an overview of federal policy (including recent legislation), accurate measures of the trade-offs resulting from implementing PBN, and an identification of potential implications to stakeholders. Trade-off measures should encompass both quantitative and qualitative approaches to measure change in noise exposure, air quality, safety-related incidents, and other factors. In addition, the Airport PBN Resource Guide should describe practices and methods airport operators can use to work with their surrounding communities, the FAA, and other stakeholders in all phases of PBN development and implementation. The guide should address the following primary issues:
a. Safety enhancements;
b. Improved efficiency of operations at the airport and in the surrounding airspace;
c. Environmental outcomes, particularly relating to noise and emissions; and
d. Performance measures.

The research plan should be divided into at least two phases, and each phase should be divided into tasks with a detailed description of the work proposed. The research plan should include a description of proposed deliverables for each task or group of tasks along with a detailed project schedule. Deliverables should also include an interim report prepared at the conclusion of Phase 1, describing work done as part of the Phase 1 tasks. This interim report should include an updated work plan for remaining tasks and an annotated outline of the final guide that will require ACRP approval prior to proceeding with subsequent tasks.

Phase 1

During the first 6 months, the research team will collect and review literature and information related to NextGen PBN development and implementation and deliver a technical memorandum along with a 30-minute Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT) presentation of the findings. Particular emphasis should be placed on identifying and evaluating the effects on airports and the airport environment. The presentation will describe the design format, outline of content, intended audiences, and subject matter of the proposed Airport PBN Resource Guide. The ACRP panel will review and approve the presentation which, following approval, will be shared with the other projects in the ACRP NextGen Initiative and culminate with a consolidated on-site workshop involving research teams and project panels from all five projects. Each project panel and research team will develop and deliver a similar (preliminary findings) report and presentation at the ACRP NextGen Initiative workshop, prompting each project panel (in breakout session) to review its work plan and objective in light of the workshop presentations.
In Phase 1, the research team will also prepare a detailed outline of the Airport PBN Resource Guide. This outline, to be incorporated into the technical memorandum and the PPT presentation, will address a broad array of issues that include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Basic PBN resources for educating airport operators;
  • Guidance materials and effective techniques for airport operators to engage FAA, aircraft operators, and the community;
  • Environmental effects of PBN, including National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other applicable requirements;
  • Case studies examining the airport operator’s role in PBN implementation, with the purpose of identifying and applying lessons learned;
  • PBN short- and long-term development, affecting
    • airport infrastructure,
    • throughput,
    • safety, and
    • runway and taxiway usage;
  • What metrics are applicable to evaluate PBN applications and implementation; and
  • Resources airports can draw on for assistance .
As input to preparation of the guide, the research team will recommend potential case studies to the ACRP Panel for review and approval. These recommendations should be included in the technical memorandum. The recommended case studies should (1) identify reported perceptions of positive and negative outcomes (operationally and environmentally), (2) address a diverse range of issues and applications, and (3) be selected carefully to include airports of various complexity and traffic levels and with different experiences implementing PBN. Selected case studies will be completed in Phase 2.

Phase 2

Following the ACRP NextGen Initiative workshop, the research team will update the work plan for ACRP panel review and approval. Following approval, the research team will implement the Phase 2 work plan, including the case studies as outlined in Phase 1. The research team will prepare a technical memorandum summarizing the results of the case study analysis. That technical memorandum will be reviewed and approved by the ACRP Panel. Following completion of the case studies, the research team will use lessons learned to finalize the components of the Airport PBN Resource Guide and prepare all final deliverables. Additional project coordination (e.g., data sharing, teleconferences, or other electronic cooperation) with other ACRP NextGen Initiative projects may be added if needed or requested. Proposers may suggest and include methods for engaging with the airport industry to validate the usefulness and applicability of the final deliverables created in Phase 2. The research plan and budget should build in appropriate checkpoints with the ACRP project panel including, at a minimum, (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the Notice to Proceed, (2) the research team’s participation at the ACRP NextGen Initiative workshop in Phase 1 (costs for the Project A03-34 panel members will be covered by ACRP), (3) at least one face-to-face meeting to review interim deliverables at the end of Phase 1, and (4) any web-enabled teleconferences tied to panel review and/or ACRP approval of interim deliverables deemed appropriate or requested. Proposers may suggest additional checkpoints and interim deliverables that are thought to be necessary or appropriate. In addition to the Airport PBN Resource Guide, the final deliverables will include a final report that contains (1) documentation of the entire project, incorporating all other specified deliverable products of the research; (2) an executive summary that outlines the research results; and (3) recommendations of needs and priorities for additional related research.

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