Airports Gear Up to Implement NASA’s Software for Reducing Delays and Saving Fuel

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The NASA-developed technology that drastically saves time for passengers, while also helping save fuel and cut CO2 emissions, is ready to be implemented at 27 airports across the U.S., including Orlando International.

The more time that airplanes spend on the airport taxiways, the more flights get delayed, and greenhouse gas emissions levels are increased. As a solution to this, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has developed an air traffic scheduling software to be implemented in airports. By automatically calculating gate pushbacks (the backward movements of aircraft from the initial parking position), airplanes can move straight to the runway, eliminating flight delays and saving fuel.

The technology was developed in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over four years of research and testing. In September, the technology that was tested during the ATD-2 (NASA’s Airspace Technology Demonstration 2) with real-world users, was successfully transferred to FAA. ATD-2, carried out at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, showed that these tools reduced jet engine run time, which leads to impressive fuel savings, lowered maintenance costs, and significantly fewer flight delays.

By September 2021, NASA’s system had led to a 933-hour cut in flight delays, the equivalent of $4.5 million, in terms of time value.

This air traffic scheduling software is just one step in NASA’s overall strategy for improving commercial aviation efficiency. The first demonstration in its Airspace Technology Demonstration portfolio, ATD-1, focused on technologies that enable fuel-efficient operations during the arrival phase and is almost ready to be implemented by FAA. Additionally, the ATD-3 showcased technologies for adjusting flight paths through real-time information, including weather conditions.

The FAA is ready to implement this software starting with more than 20 major airports. This will be part of a larger project related to surface management technology, called the Terminal Flight Data Manager (TFDM).