FAA, NASA Finish Air Traffic Management Software Testing


The FAA and NASA have wrapped up research and testing on software designed to minimize taxi delays and ease ramp congestion along with saving fuel and reducing carbon emissions. The new NASA-developed software capability, which is designed to calculate gate pushbacks to allow aircraft to “roll directly to the runway and to take off,” will be part of the FAA’s Terminal Flight Data Manager (TFDM) program. The agency initially plans to roll the TFDM program out to 27 hub airports beginning with Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) next year.

“This air traffic scheduling technology enhances aircraft efficiency and improves dependability for passengers every day,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “I’m excited that the software NASA developed for air traffic controllers and airlines will be soon rolled out at airports across the country and know the results will continue to be extraordinary.”

The TFDM program has undergone almost four years of testing by the FAA’s NextGen group; airlines’ airport operations; FAA radar facilities in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Dallas, Texas; and the Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, D.C. centers. According to the FAA and NASA, testing at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) resulted in reduced taxi times, savings of more than 275,000 gallons of fuel annually and a daily reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 8 tons of carbon dioxide. The FAA says it expects that, when the program is complete, it will save more than 7 million gallons of fuel and eliminate more than 75,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

Video: FAA
Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Don’t know how it is since Covid, but before Covid, ramp delays and long line ups for departure were certainly no mystery as to why. At any of the big airports for each hour you could find numerous occasions where as many as 20 aircraft were scheduled for departure at exactly the same time, the same minute, and frequently many scheduled as such be the same company. ‘Splain how that’s supposed to work without someone having to wait. And 105 arrivals scheduled to arrive during one hour when an airports maximum acceptance rate, runway capacity, is 80, well someone has to wait…like be late. Former ATC talking here.

  2. Having actually been #27 for takeoff, I think some kind of taxi-out flow control might be a good idea. Seems like efficient (maximum) use of the runway could be served by always having one or maybe two aircraft holding short for takeoff, but not 26. The only reason to line up like that is to not lose your place in line. If that can be achieved in software (leaving the waiting airplanes at the gate with good (external) air conditioning, then so much the better for the passengers.

    Of course then you have no gate available for the arriving airplanes.

  3. When market demand exceeds runway capacity, how do you manage that without having the government directly manage the airlines? Who decides which airline needs to trim its schedule to comply with the capacity constraint?

      • Agreed. A good solution. It’s called regulation. Regulation becomes necessary when private enterprise refuses to self regulate. Someone’s got to do it. Don’t complain when it happens.

        • You want the government to “directly manage” the airlines? A “good solution?” Someone needs to go back and read about the airline industry prior to deregulation in 1978. You’re asking for way higher fares, far fewer choices, and a much smaller segment of the population who could afford air travel. Thank goodness there’s nobody in the industry or government even considering such an absurd scheme.

          • Mm, let’s see, airplanes with as many seats as can be crammed in, non-existant customer service, very few non-stop flights! And how many times have there been bankruptcy filings in the industry since deregulation? Unrealistically cheap fares have created an unrealistic expectation of cheap fares, making people get mad when one airline tries to charge a fare that actually pays for the cost of the flight.

          • Nope I didn’t say I want the government to regulate the airlines again. I merely agreed with YARS that when the airlines all want the same runway at the same time it’s a good idea to schedule runway availability which, like it or not is a form of regulation. The issue need not be demagogued.

  4. What happened to ADS-B? Increased trafffic capacity was one of the items used by the FAA to con airplane owners to equip!