Research Aims To Identify GA Airport Threats

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New research supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security aims to help officials detect unusual activity or behavior at general aviation airports. "We want to understand the variation associated with usual general-aviation activity and operations, so unusual activity can be detected, analyzed and resolved," said Justin Chimka, a researcher at the University of Arkansas. "Based on historical data, there are basic assumptions or expectations about what should be going on at these airports," he said. Chimka and his research team analyzed data such as the annual number of landings and takeoffs, the number of aircraft and flight schools based at the airport, population within a 100-mile radius, and whether the airport has a control tower, to determine typical activity for the airport. Then any current data that reveals a deviation from the norm can be investigated.

"We have to ask ourselves if reality -- what's really going on -- meets these statistical expectations," said Chimka. "If not, then we probably should look at it." Chimka and student Ryan Black based their work on existing models that were developed to predict growth at general aviation airports.