Adapting navigation and flight conventions to nextgen's en route operations
Lee, Brian Moon
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In response to the unparalleled growth of demand for air traffic during the past few decades, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launched the Next Generation Air Transportation (NextGen) program to restructure the National Airspace System (NAS). Among the research is the focus on direct, wind optimal routing using geodesic routes and flight operations that do not depend solely on ground based navigation aids (NAVAID) and a fixed airspace structure. While technologies, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), exist to locate an aircraft at higher degrees of resolution with a larger coverage, the way in which this information is conveyed is long and cumbersome. Therefore, new ways to describe the airspace is desired. The thesis presents the results of an experimental investigation into three alternatives to fix/route and GPS methods. The first method is the Navigation Reference System (NRS) using an absolute grid based strategy that has been recently implemented in limited portions of the United States airspace. The second method, the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS), is also a grid based system, and it is used by NATO, but it has not been applied to the air traffic control context. The third alternative is Point Relation Navigation (PRN), which uses a single point of reference within each Air Route Traffic Center (ARTCC) airspace and acts as a hybrid of coordinate and radial fixes. 21 airline dispatchers from a single major U.S air carrier participated in an online assessment of the five methods above through specific tasks. Results indicate that most participants prefer the fix/route system over the others, followed closely by the PRN method. However, there were varying results across all of the methods in terms of speed and accuracy of completing the tasks. This study incites further interest in strategies to describe aircraft routes operating in a more flexible airspace.