National Academies Press: OpenBook

Wake Turbulence: An Obstacle to Increased Air Traffic Capacity (2008)

Chapter: 2 Organizational Challenges in Wake Turbulence Research

« Previous: 1 Introduction
Suggested Citation:"2 Organizational Challenges in Wake Turbulence Research." National Research Council. 2008. Wake Turbulence: An Obstacle to Increased Air Traffic Capacity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12044.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Organizational Challenges in Wake Turbulence Research." National Research Council. 2008. Wake Turbulence: An Obstacle to Increased Air Traffic Capacity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12044.
Page 25
Suggested Citation:"2 Organizational Challenges in Wake Turbulence Research." National Research Council. 2008. Wake Turbulence: An Obstacle to Increased Air Traffic Capacity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12044.
Page 26
Suggested Citation:"2 Organizational Challenges in Wake Turbulence Research." National Research Council. 2008. Wake Turbulence: An Obstacle to Increased Air Traffic Capacity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12044.
Page 27
Suggested Citation:"2 Organizational Challenges in Wake Turbulence Research." National Research Council. 2008. Wake Turbulence: An Obstacle to Increased Air Traffic Capacity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12044.
Page 28

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2 Organizational Challenges in Wake Turbulence Research get organized To best support a national approach to overcoming wake turbulence challenges, there needs to be a simple and clearly defined goal agreed to and understood by all participants. Based on current needs, an appropri- ate goal would be to develop the technical and procedural capabilities to increase capacity—without loss of safety—by reducing the required aircraft separation distances associated with wake turbulence avoidance. Efforts under a national approach must be defensible in the context of the goal; a solution cannot be implemented until there is justification for modifying the legacy rules, the pros and cons for the change have been analyzed, and the acceptability of new risk has been proven to those affected by it. In addition, when assessing the new procedures and devel- oping the new technology necessary for the change, the ability of the air traffic control system and the airportals to handle the resulting increase in air traffic density must be considered. With a goal in mind, it is possible to map out the development of the objectives and requirements for achieving that goal. The resulting road- maps not only should guide federal wake turbulence research, but also should take into account the work of foreign agencies and universities, as well as relevant nonwake research performed by other entities to exploit synergistic work and identify potential partnerships. Gaps and duplica- tion of effort should be avoided; investment requirements and milestones, risk mitigation, and acceptance or elimination processes should be under- 24

ORGANIZATIONAL CHALLENGES 25 stood; and stakeholders should be identified and acknowledged, includ- ing individuals who are accountable or responsible. Currently, there is no coordinated support for wake turbulence research, nor is there an apparent champion, spokesperson, or leader held accountable for achieving the goals. Such a leader would be able to provide and defend a business plan that can accomplish the complex requirements of research, applied technologies, and procedural changes while demonstrating that the value of the endeavor is clear, even when compared to the many programs competing for the same limited funds. A recognized priority is a valuable asset for obtaining adequate and pre- dictable funding and for protecting important programs in the face of budget cuts. The leader would help determine which federal government and civilian organizations or other resources are most appropriate and necessary for accomplishing the goal. He or she would be responsible for creating an effective and efficient program leadership structure. If mul- tiple agencies or organizations are involved, the funding should have a common source rather than be contingent on the individual budgets of the participants. The leader should be highly respected and well known in his or her field and therefore able to attract and support the best research, technical, and operations personnel available. Historically, NASA and the FAA shared leadership of wake turbu- lence research. This arrangement was successful when budgets were not so tight, but it is no longer feasible. While NASA has the technical expertise to support this leadership, wake turbulence research now lies outside its priority research funding focus. The FAA is responsible for the establishment of civil aviation safety standards and implementation of air transportation system changes, and therefore has an interest in all phenomena that affect safety, including wake turbulence. The JPDO has the ability to coordinate research, but as a planning agency it does not have the necessary executive power or budget authority. NOAA and DOD occasionally contribute to wake turbulence research, but their efforts are motivated by their own needs, not by the goal of increasing the capacity of the air transportation system. Without a leader, the alignment of these efforts depends on the relationships between individual researchers and on temporary partnerships between agencies. This is sufficient leadership to ensure success in projects and programs that take place over a few years, but not enough to tie those successes together into solutions. Finding 2-1. There is no champion, spokesperson, or leader held account- able for goal achievement across the nation’s wake turbulence research and development efforts.

26 WAKE TURBULENCE—AN OBSTACLE TO INCREASED AIR TRAFFIC CAPACITY Finding 2-2. Wake turbulence is a long-term problem. Although a total solution cannot be achieved within a decade, improvements will become available gradually, depending on funding, and it can be envi- sioned that these incremental improvements will provide incrementally increased capacity at airports where implemented. Recommendation 2-1. Federal wake turbulence research should have the following characteristics: • The FAA should be the lead agency for defining requirements for wake turbulence research. • The FAA should manage and fund capacity-focused wake turbu- lence research using academic, industry, and other government partners. • The FAA should appoint a strong and motivated leader to inte- grate and coordinate research across agencies, define priori- ties, and represent wake vortex research to the JPDO and other agencies. • Research should be sustained over the short, medium, and long term. • Resource allocations across functional lines of involved agencies should be coordinated among all agencies involved in this work. Better coordination of the many independent entities that are cur- rently studying wake turbulence characteristics, dynamic predictive capa- bilities, sensor and display development, and adaptive procedures will be important.  Until recently, NASA provided essential fundamental wake turbulence research in partnership with the FAA. But budget constraints have severely limited NASA’s ability to support the wake vortex research required for NextGen, creating a technology gap. While NASA is still well-aligned to do this research, in that it possesses the proper expertise, facilities, and institutional experience, it does not have the necessary resources. The FAA does not have this expertise, and there appears to be no other government agency with this capability or capacity. Other orga- nizations with this technical capability will have to be identified so that the FAA can work with them. Elements of a successful study of wake turbulence include (1) being identified as a major program within NextGen, the wide ranging transfor- mation of the entire national air transportation system; (2) being included within the scope of one or more of the FAA Air Transportation Centers of Excellence; (3) being consolidated in a single location, perhaps at the FAA Field Office located at NASA’s Langley Research Center, funded by the FAA; (4) being identified by the Administration as a high priority;

ORGANIZATIONAL CHALLENGES 27 (5) being closely linked to all similar international studies; and (6) being identified as a high priority in the Aeronautics Research and Develop- ment Plan and the related Aeronautics Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Infrastructure Plan, as it was in the NRC’s 2006 Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics. Finding 2-3. The change in aeronautics research priorities at NASA has led to a gap in the wake turbulence program as previously envisioned. Finding 2-4. Present federal investment does not place sufficient prior- ity on wake turbulence research to achieve the results called for by the NextGen goals. Finding 2-5. NASA expertise is well-aligned to conducting medium- to long-term fundamental research, including wake vortex modeling and wake vortex alleviation work, while the FAA does not currently have such expertise. Recommendation 2-2. Because of its expertise, NASA should continue to conduct medium- to long-term fundamental research, including wake vortex modeling and wake vortex alleviation work at a level of effort sufficient to achieve NextGen goals. get the community talking The wake turbulence issue and its relationship to a safe increase in airspace capacity spans a large number of disciplines—a community. Success with this endeavor specifically involves communication, coor- dination, and integration. To facilitate these elements, the implementing agency should begin in the earliest stages to involve representatives from all of the disciplines, ensuring that they have a common understanding of the task, agree with the goals and objectives, and are committed to support of the effort. The goal of understanding wake vortices for the purpose of increasing airspace capacity has the greatest long-term impact on aircraft operators, including pilots, and the ATC providers. It would be wise to involve all of them as research is conducted on wake vortices so that they understand the methodology and that safety in our airspace will not be compromised as a result. At the same time, they can provide advice to the researchers on ways to make the change more useful to them, which will ultimately increase acceptance and adoption. The category “aircraft operators” is not limited to airline operations but also includes general aviation, military, and public service flight operations.

28 WAKE TURBULENCE—AN OBSTACLE TO INCREASED AIR TRAFFIC CAPACITY This community also includes the multiple elements of the JPDO in its effort to establish NextGen ATC operations. There are hundreds of initia- tives and projects under the JPDO NextGen umbrella, and participants need a clear understanding of how potential wake turbulence solution set(s) interact with them. Many of these initiatives, such as navigation for approach and landing or departure, new runway construction, ATC and flight deck information display improvements, may interact technically with any wake turbulence solution. Priority for funding of these initia- tives, including wake turbulence, can be considered in light of alterna- tive project funding by weighing relative risks, benefits, and schedules. This would also allow wake turbulence and other initiatives to be fully integrated in terms of planning, technical and economic analysis, and budget execution. JPDO is not a direct recipient of program funds, but is a coordinating organization that develops plans for required work and that coordinates those requirements across agencies. Individual agencies submit their budgets for the work they will conduct. More detailed rec- ommendations on budget are beyond the scope of this committee. By getting the community talking in the earliest stages, there is increased likelihood of finding a practical and effective solution to the shortage of airspace capacity. Further, it is more likely that any spacing modification will be accepted because there will be reduced confusion, misunderstanding, and speculation over spacing changes. This challenge can be met if the agency that ultimately conducts the wake vortex research makes a strong and earnest outreach effort and maintains that commu- nication throughout the research period. Communication can continue beyond the implementation phase in order to monitor the acceptance of spacing modifications and to provide data to end users showing the effect of research on the nation’s airspace capacity. Recommendation 2-3. Operators and controllers should be included in the process of designing, implementing, and evaluating wake turbu- lence-related changes to the air transportation system. Recommendation 2-4. JPDO should recommend to the FAA detailed wake vortex research efforts needed to support NextGen.

Next: 3 Technical Challenges in Wake Turbulence Research »
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Without major changes, the current air transportation system will be unable to accommodate the expected increase in demand by 2025. One proposal to address this problem is to use the Global Positioning System to enable aircraft to fly more closely spaced. This approach, however, might be limited by the wake turbulence problem, which can be a safety hazard when smaller aircraft follow relatively larger aircraft too closely. To examine how this potential hazard might be reduced, Congress in 2005 directed NASA to request a study from the NRC to assess the federal wake turbulence R&D program. This book provides a description of the problem, an assessment of the organizational challenges to addressing wake turbulence, an analysis of the technical challenges in wake turbulence, and a proposal for a wake turbulence program plan. A series of recommendations for addressing the wake turbulence challenge are also given.

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