MIT Study Shows Benefits of Departure Metering

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has released a detailed study on the significant fuel and carbon reduction benefits of surface departure metering at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The departure metering program at JFK is an ongoing collaborative effort among the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the FAA, the airlines operating at JFK and ACI-NA World Business Partner Passur Aerospace.

The MIT study compared taxi out times, fuel burn, and emissions before and after the implementation of the metering program, based on data gathered over six months of operation of the departure metering program at JFK, which was compared to twelve months of operational data before the program was implemented. Highlights of the results are:

  • Lower fuel bills for airlines: an estimated $10 to $15 million in annual savings across all the carriers involved in the metering program (using a range of $2-$3 per gallon cost of aviation fuel), due to the “engines off virtual queue.” Per-carrier savings will vary depending on their actual proportion of the schedule and fleet mix.
  • Greener operations: 5 million fewer gallons of fuel burned per year, resulting in a reduction of 48,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere per year, derived from “engines off virtual queuing.”
  • Improved passenger experience: 14,800 fewer total departure taxi hours per year, resulting from flights that remain at the gate with passengers in the departure lounge (or sometimes at a remote metering pad) followed by a lower active taxi time when they are released, rather than joining an extended active taxi queue.

The program uses a combination of software, process management and a manned operations center to create a “virtual departure queue” in which departures are “metered” by holding flights either at the gate or in a common metering area, rather than queuing in an extended line of aircraft with engines on. Once aircraft enter the active taxiway, they are ready to depart quickly, in a shorter taxi queue with less fuel burn. “Virtual queuing” ensures that a flight’s position in the departure line-up, and its planned runway departure time, are both preserved, even though the aircraft is not physically out on the active taxiway.

The study was conducted by researchers from MIT Lincoln Laboratory and MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics who are undertaking benefits assessment of surface congestion management systems at a large number of airports in the U.S. in support of the Tower Flight Data Manager system being prototyped at MIT Lincoln Laboratory to help meet the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System objectives. The JFK study was also complementary to MIT’s own field demonstrations of a departure metering concept at Boston-Logan International airport. These studies are part of a broader set of gate-to-gate operational mitigation areas under exploration, which also includes advanced departure, cruise and approach operations.

Contact ACI-NA’s Chris Oswald for more information.

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