Simulation-Based Analysis of Wake Turbulence Encounters in Current Flight Operations (2009)

Author: Christopher Douglas Swol

One way to address the need for increased airspace system capacity is to reduce the separation requirements between aircraft in-flight. A key limiting factor to any reduction in separation is wake turbulence. The potential for aircraft to encounter wake turbulence poses a threat to both safety as well as increased efficiency. This research effort seeks to develop a model that can be used to evaluate the potential for wake encounters in today's flight operations, as well as serve as a tool for evaluating future reduced separation scenarios. The wake encounter model (WEM) achieves this goal by integrating results from NASA's TDAWP wake turbulence prediction model with a flight operations model based on radar flight track data. Unique in this model's design, is the ability to evaluate the potential for wake encounters throughout the terminal area versus previous research which has largely been restricted to areas near the runway. Expanding the model's reach provides not only for a more thorough analysis of potential wake encounters, but also creates an effective tool for evaluating future reduced separation scenarios.

The WEM model was used to evaluate operations at three metropolitan airspaces in the United States: Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York. The results from these model runs indicated that potential wake encounters in today's operations were few. More importantly, the results from the WEM create a baseline for wake turbulence exposure in today's system, by which future scenarios can be compared against as part of any comprehensive reduced separation safety analysis

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