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The University of Southampton

Making airports more efficient – without compromising safety

Published: 7 April 2011Origin: Southampton Management School

Ways of using airport runways more efficiently by improving the scheduling take offs and landings are being explored by Professor Julia Bennell from the School of Management and colleague Professor Chris Potts from Mathematics.

They have been awarded a grant by Eurocontrol, the European organisation for the safety of air navigation, to use the techniques of operational research and management science to come up with new ways of increasing capacity. As air traffic in Europe is expected to double or triple in the next 15 to 20 years, solutions are urgently needed.

“When aeroplanes take off or land, they cause tremendous air turbulence, which can affect other aircraft following on behind,” explains Julia. “For safety reasons, air traffic controllers therefore enforce separation times and distances between the flights, which are different according to the type and weight of the aircraft. We want to see if there are better ways of scheduling the flights without, of course, compromising safety.”

The academics will be using various algorithms and mathematical methods to tackle this complex optimisation problem using data provided from Heathrow Airport. More efficient use of runways will also help reduce carbon emissions.

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