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Sustainable Airport Operations: A Novel Approach to Reducing Airline Fuel Waste

Sustainable Airport Operations: A Novel Approach to Reducing Airline Fuel Waste

Decorative: airplane taking off

Air travel is a major contributor to global emissions. Operational inefficiencies that waste fuel—like extra taxi time and airborne holding—only exacerbate the problem. Excess fuel consumption is a profit problem, too, costing airlines billions annually. As a result, the aerospace community is actively pursuing decision-making aids to reduce fuel waste and increase the efficiency of airport operations. Unfortunately, most solutions until now have had limited efficacy because they have not considered specific sustainability goals or local airport configurations. 

This research team is developing a new approach to modeling decision-point scenarios that will meld statistical probabilities with categorical data collected from the San Antonio International Airport (SAT) to tailor recommendations to achieve greater sustainability. From this work, the team aims to create an adaptive decision-making tool customized to mitigate fuel waste from at-gate surface congestion, runway queues, and terminal airspace inefficiencies at SAT. The researchers will work with airport stakeholders at multiple levels to ensure the tool they develop is widely embraced and deployed. SAT will provide guidance on sustainability goals and operational decision variables, which are the key inputs and outputs for modeling greater efficiency. 

This catalyst grant will form the basis of a research proposal to the National Science Foundation’s Strengthening American Infrastructure program. The project will also promote new collaborative partnerships between multiple U-M units (UMTRI, Department of Aerospace Engineering, and School for Environment and Sustainability), as well as strengthen the collaboration between U-M and SAT and set the stage for future collaboration with airports across the country. 

Project team: Wenbo Sun, PI (UMTRI); Max Z. Li, Co-I (Aerospace Engineering); Parth Vaishnav, Co-I (SEAS)