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MIT Develops Queuing Model to Cut Down on Runway Wait

Zurich Kloten Airport

Say so long to being stuck on an airplane for what seems like forever between boarding and take-off.

Let’s all say a hearty thank you to the brains at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where engineers have come up with a way to cut down the wait time between boarding a plane and taking off.

The MIT team’s new algorithm takes into consideration weather conditions, traffic on the runway, and incoming and outgoing flights. The result is an estimated time for how long a plan will have to wait on the tarmac before taking off. With this number, air traffic controllers can make more informed decisions about when a plane should leave the gate, which can significantly increase fuel savings.

“In our field tests, we showed that there were some periods of time when you could decrease your taxi time by 20 percent by holding aircraft back,” Hamsa Balakrishnan, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at MIT, said in a release. “Each gate-held aircraft saves 16 to 20 gallons of fuel, because it’s not idling. And that adds up.”

The ultimate goal with this new system is to provide ample information to cut down on congestion so all the air traffic controllers can work together instead of in silos.

“It’s mostly on the fly,” Balakrishnan said the release. “Sometimes, if there is a controller with a lot of experience or intuition, they might actually decide they’ll hold aircraft back. Historically, though, they don’t, they just let everybody go. Which is why you have queues of 40 aircraft waiting at the runway. And you want to avoid that.”

[Photo: Getty Images]

Comments are Closed.
Allan38103 January 19, 2016

This model does not speed up the takeoffs and landings, it only affects the planes already waiting.

DanishFlyer January 19, 2016

If those 40 aircraft sit at gates instead of on the runway, won't it just be incoming flights sitting idling away from their gates?

brocklee9000 January 19, 2016

I guess I've just been lucky and have mostly dealt with short times. Most of my flights, the boarding/release/pushback process takes longer than the engine start up and taxi time. Also, they said it could reduce taxi times by 20 percent, but...what was the average taxi time they modeled? Because 20% of a 10 minute taxi is only 2 minutes, whereas 20% of a 30 minute taxi only saves 6. And doing some rough math (assuming 600 pounds/hour per engine, 6.8 pounds per gallon of Jet A) that equates to about 3 gallons per minute at idle. So even for a smaller plane like a CRJ with around 2000 gallon capacity, it's minuscule. But I guess at busy airports or hubs, this can add up to savings. And for big busy airports like AMS that are also concerned about "environmental impact" this could add up in the long term, as well.