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Implications of Newer Larger Aircraft on Airport Management, Research Paper Example

Pages: 8

Words: 2300

Research Paper

Purpose

The purpose of this research is to ascertain and predict the impact of the introduction of newer larger aircraft on airport management. This research ascertains a number of fundamental operational and design characteristics that have to be taken into consideration before new and larger aircraft continue to operate within airports. The changes in aircraft characteristics have a resultant effect on certain elements of airport design and planning

Background

The airline industry has always reacted to the introduction of new and larger aircraft by upgrading the standards defined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). When Boeing unveiled their maiden 747, the FAA’s standards and guidance material could not accommodate the aircraft (Graham, 2014). The introduction of the jumbo jet class of planes was been found to cause a number of problems when it came to terminals, runways, pavement and taxiway designs. This has been found to have a further influence on the gate capacity and baggage handling operations. The introduction of the Airbus A380 in 2005 introduced a number of these challenges on a number of airports. The implications of these challenges and conflicts played a part in the temporal cessation of the production of the aircraft after it ran into production cost and profitability issues.

Newer and larger aircraft currently operating within the airline industries are typically larger in dimensions (height, length and width). With every dimension of newel and larger aircraft expected to further increase, a number of projects in the works have already shown these attributes. This report identifies the areas of conflict between specific attributes of newer and larger aircraft and existing airport design features.

Approach

This paper will focus on the impacts that specific attributes of newer and larger aircraft have on existing airport design features. This model will entail highlighting specific elements of airport design, its role in overall airport operations and the implication of specific characteristics of newer and larger aircraft on these elements. Analysis of the relationship between these variables would aid in the formulation of appropriate solutions.

Terminal Capacity

In 2012, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released an airline industry report that forecasted certain elements of the airline industry between 2013 and 2017. According to the port, airline were expected to realize a 31% growth in the number of their customer, expected to reach 3.91 billion by 2017 (Young & Wells , 2014). Another report released in October 2014 forecasted this number to reach 7.3 billion by 2034. The five-fastest increasing markets are expected to be China (to grow by 856 million passengers per year by 2034), the United States (by 559 million passengers) India (by 266 million passengers), Indonesia (by 183 million and Brazil (by 170 million) (Zografos, Andreatta, & Odoni, 2013).The growth in the number of air passengers necessitates the development of newer larger aircraft that can accommodate these growing numbers.

The airbus A380 offers a solution to the help service the growing market. The aircraft currently serves airports that house and service the Boeing B747-400, the world’s second largest commercial passenger aircraft. The A380 is considerably larger than the B747-400 in all aspects. This includes length (11 feet longer), width (41 feet wider), height (15 feet taller) and weight (400,000 pounds heavier). The jumbo jet (B747-400) and super jumbo jet (B747-400) classes of aircraft offer a plausible solution to the growing congestion within airports with their gradual and increasing use. However, the introduction of these aircraft have a considerable operational burden on the existing airport infrastructure.

The jumbo and super-jumbo jet class series are characterized by a larger wing span. The larger wingspan further complicates an existing challenge with the scheduling and parking of aircraft at the terminal gates. This stems from the minimum threshold for operational separation (wingtip separation) between planes. Adhering to the minimum threshold for operational separation, would result in the inability to make use of adjacent gates when loading and unloading the Airbus A380. One plausible solution that is currently in use in many airports globally is the remote parking of aircraft on hardstands, resulting in employing buses and/or vans to transport passengers to the terminals and concourses using vans and/or buses. This type of solutions evades the daunting task of expanding terminals and aprons. However, these operations are costly to maintain overtime and also inconvenience passengers, making air travel a cumbersome experience.

The Airbus A380 adopts a double decker design that allows it its large capacity (900 seats). This means that considering its capacity, it would generally take a much longer time to full seat its boarding passengers, However, Airbus have designed the plane to utilize three passenger bridges concurrently. The lower-level bridges are in synchronization with the current terminal configuration. However, the upper-level bridges would be limited in use as the current terminal configuration does not coincide with this aspect of the plane’s design. This has to be considered together with the maximum turn-around to time allowed for other smaller jumbo jets. A failure to adhere to the set maximum turn-around time allowed results in the reduction in baseline profits.

Gate hold-rooms for most airports are designed to house between 555 and 800 passengers at any given time. The size of the new larger aircraft such as the A380 causes a considerable strain on get a hold-rooms and other facilities, such as concourses, and services, such as ticket processing (United States. Government Accountability Office, 2007). With the number of passengers growing with each passing year, the curb frontage, automobile parking, and arrival and departure roadways are increasingly unable to cope.

Airfield Accommodations

New large aircraft have one outstanding feature, a great wingspan. While there have been mechanical adjustments such as the increase of the number of wheels on the main landing gears to realize wheel loading similar to the smaller jumbo jets, the great wing span necessitates an adjustments to the airfield. All planes are classified according to design group, with each group having the required minimum airfield specifications for its operations prescribed for in FAA AC 150/5300-13 (Varma, Gosling, Engineers, & Engineers), 2014).

Runway Width

The width of the runway is of particular interest in the event of bad weather and reduced visibility. The FAA recommends a runway width of 150, 150 and 200 feet for aircraft within FAA design groups IV, V and VI respectively. The second largest aircraft, the B747-400 has been considerably used by most airlines. As such most airports meet the required 150 feet runway width for design group V aircraft such as the B747-400. The A380 requires an additional 50 feet to be fully operated within the prescribed standards.

Runway Shoulders

Runway shoulders are crucial in accommodating the passage of emergency and maintenance equipment and offer resistance to blast erosion. However, one of the most important functions of the runway shoulders is the support the infrequent passing of a plane that veers off from the center of the runway. As such, this section of the airfield is also designed to sustain the weight of a landing aircraft. With most of the new larger aircraft registering weight over 1 million pounds, most of the runways shoulders for design group IV and some for design group V are not been designed to sustain design group VI aircraft.

The strength and force of blast erosion is predominantly determined by the strength of propulsion engine used in an aircraft. New larger aircraft such as the A380 use much stronger propulsion engines compared to those used in design group VI aircraft (Young & Wells , 2014). Group VI aircrafts have wing-mounted engines that are a problem for airports with small runway shoulders. As depicted in the figure below, the A380, with its wing-mounted engine and high-propulsion engines, may cause soil erosion 20 feet beyond its stipulated runway surface and width (200 feet) and runway shoulder (40 feet). This would expose ground near runways to considerable soil erosion and even possibly cause damage to any objects near runways.

Runway Stopways

The stopway is a crucial element of the runway. This is the section that lies just after the takeoff runway end. This section is responsible in aiding to slow down and aircraft during an aborted takeoff (Varma, Gosling, Engineers, & Engineers), 2014). Most of the runway stopways in most large airports have been designed to support the weight of aircraft as far as design group V. The design and state of these runway stopways have not been tested to prove their performance when it comes to new and larger aircraft.

Taxiways

The introduction of new larger aircraft has affected the taxiway designs the most in all airfield features. The new larger aircraft are attributed with a large wingspan where its wingtips violate safety areas for terminal areas, taxiways and runways, most airports do not have the alternative of extending taxiways. As such, most airports avoid new larger aircraft.

Taxiway Shoulders

The taxiway shoulders are important in protecting against engine ingestion and jet blast erosion. As such, the taxiway shoulders relative to the position of an aircraft’s engine is crucial in determining its minimum width. New larger aircraft such as the A380 have their wing-mounted engines overhanging the edge of the paved taxiway. Group VI aircraft require bigger taxiway shoulders compared to Group V aircraft. This is depicted in the figure below;

Considering that the engine is approximately 13 feet from the taxiway’s outside shoulder, jet blast from a design group VI aircraft with the latest high-propulsion engine may potentially cause damage to surrounding equipment such as runway lights and signs. The current taxiway width requirement for design group VI aircraft may require alteration to accommodate the effect of jet blast on surrounding objects.

Taxiway Separation

Airports in the 21st century are looking to minimize cost and maximize output. This is the foundation of making as many aprons and taxiways in large hub airports. This helps create an intricate network that offers direct routing to aprons, runways and runways. For this reason, the separation between runways determines the amount of the capacity of any given airfield when the new larger aircraft are introduced (United States. Government Accountability Office, 2007). The FAA in AC 150/5300-13 prescribes the separation between taxiways for each aircraft design group. The table below depicts the threshold for taxiway separation for the three largest design groups.

Item Airplane Design Group
IV V VI
Runway centerline to:      
Taxiway centerline 400 ft. 400 ft. 600 ft.
Taxiway centerline to:      
Parallel taxiway centerline 215 ft. 267 ft. 324 ft.
Fixed or movable object 129.5 ft. 160 ft. 193 ft.
Taxilane centerline to:      
Parallel taxilane centerline 198 ft. 245 ft. 298 ft.
Fixed of movable object 112.5 ft. 138 ft. 167 ft.

 Ground Servicing

New large aircraft are still considerably new within the airline industry, i.e. design group IV aircraft. As such, data relating to some of the ground servicing requirements for such aircrafts is not readily available. However, according to Boeing Aircraft Co., there are certain requirements that accompany new larger aircraft that airports will have to observe. They include;

  • The use of new and stronger aircraft tags capable of pushing more than 1 million pounds. The currently available and used aircraft tags are not strong enough to ouch design category VI aircraft such as the A380.
  • Additional electricity capacity. Airports currently use two 90kVA connections which is not sufficient for use with the new larger aircraft. Four 90kVA connections would be most ideal.
  • Increase in preconditioned air. This is as a result of the new larger aircraft, such as the A380, having larger fuselages.
  • Adapted fueling facilities. Aircraft such as the A380 present a technical challenge when fueling in the readily available fueling stations in airport(United States. Government Accountability Office, 2007).

Conclusions

The introduction of new larger aircraft will require the modification of several facets of airports to accommodate their weight and size. This is evidently important as depicted by the challenges with operating an A380 in the currently available airports. Airports will have to consider modification and management techniques for handling and operating design category VI aircraft as soon as possible. With the growing air travel industry, there is need to accommodate more passengers in airport facilities and in travel. Costs of construction and the general lack of space for expansion leaves airport management with the choice to either integrate new larger aircraft in operations or limit their use. Planner have to put into consideration size when selecting a plane.

Recommendations

Existingairports are finding it difficult to maintain operations and profitability when handling new and larger aircraft. It is evident that most of the airports today cannot effectively sustain the new and larger aircraft, especially those belonging to design category VI. However there are a number of approaches that can be employed to ensure that they can manage operations and maintain a considerable profit baseline.

The best solution to the challenges faced with new larger aircraft is the construction of new and larger airports with features specifically designed to handle design category VI aircraft. This is a considerably costly alternative.

Capacity limitation is a considerably viable option for those airports with little to no space to make alteration to elements of their facilities. By limiting capacity, the use of new larger aircraft will be mitigated to only the point where their use is above the profit baselines.

Expansion is the most viable alternative for existing airports that lack the capacity to handle design category VI aircraft. Expansion of facilities such as terminals would considerably increase operability of category VI aircraft.

References

Graham, A. (2014). Managing airports : an international perspective. Abingdon: Routledge.

United States. Government Accountability Office. (2007). Commercial aviation : potential safety and capacity issues associated with the introduction of the new A380 aircraft : report to congressional requesters. Washington: GAO.

Varma, A., Gosling, S. D., Engineers, A. S., & Engineers), T. &. (2014). Transportation and Development Institute Congress 2014 : planes, trains, and automobiles. Reston: American Society of Civil Engineers.

Young, S. B., & Wells , A. (2014). Airport planning and management. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Zografos, K. G., Andreatta, G., & Odoni, A. (2013). Modelling and managing airport performance. Chichester: Wiley.

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