2008

Delay Banking for Managing Air Traffic

Delay credits could be expended to gain partial relief from flow restrictions.

Delay banking has been invented to enhance air-traffic management in a way that would increase the degree of fairness in assigning arrival, departure, and en-route delays and trajectory deviations to aircraft impacted by congestion in the national airspace system. In delay banking, an aircraft operator (airline, military, general aviation, etc.) would be assigned a numerical credit when any of their flights are delayed because of an air-traffic flow restriction. The operator could subsequently bid against other operators competing for access to congested airspace to utilize part or all of its accumulated credit. Operators utilize credits to obtain higher priority for the same flight, or other flights operating at the same time, or later, in the same airspace, or elsewhere. Operators could also trade delay credits, according to market rules that would be determined by stakeholders in the national airspace system.

Delay banking would be administered by an independent third party who would use delay banking automation to continually monitor flights, allocate delay credits, maintain accounts of delay credits for participating airlines, mediate bidding and the consumption of credits of winning bidders, analyze potential transfers of credits within and between operators, implement accepted transfers, and ensure fair treatment of all participating operators.

A flow restriction can manifest itself in the form of a delay in assigned takeoff time, a reduction in assigned airspeed, a change in the position for the aircraft in a queue of all aircraft in a common stream of traffic (e.g., similar route), a change in the planned altitude profile for an aircraft, or change in the planned route for the aircraft. Flow restrictions are typically imposed to mitigate traffic congestion at an airport or in a region of airspace, particularly congestion due to inclement weather, or the unavailability of a runway or region of airspace.

A delay credit would be allocated to an operator of a flight that has accepted, or upon which was imposed, a flow restriction. The amount of the credit would increase with the amount of delay caused by the flow restriction, the exact amount depending on which of several candidate formulas is eventually chosen. For example, according to one formula, there would be no credit for a delay smaller than some threshold value (e.g., 30 seconds) and the amount of the credit for a longer delay would be set at the amount of the delay minus the threshold value. Optionally, the value of a delay credit could be made to decay with time according to a suitable formula (e.g., an exponential decay). Also, optionally, a transaction charge could be assessed against the value of a delay credit that an operator used on a flight different from the one for which the delay originated or that was traded with a different operator.

The delay credits accumulated by a given airline could be utilized in various ways. For example, an operator could enter a bid for priority handling in a new flow restriction that impacts one or more of the operator’s flights; if the bid were unsuccessful, all or a portion of the credit would be returned to the bidder. If the bid pertained to a single aircraft that was in a queue, delay credits could be consumed in moving the aircraft to an earlier position within the queue. In the case of a flow restriction involving a choice of alternate routes, planned altitude profile, aircraft spacing, or other non-queue flow restrictions, delay credits could be used to bid for an alternative assignment.

This work was done by Steve Green of Ames Research Center.

This invention is owned by NASA and a patent application has been filed. Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to the Ames Technology Partnerships Division at (650) 604-2954. Refer to ARC-15392-1.