TRB - Researching Airports

DFW International Airport executive VP Jim Crites examines the progress of the Airport Cooperative Research Program and puts out a call for industry to participate.


AB: Is there any type of project that is not eligible?

Crites: We rejected a couple of problem statements that were directed at very high tech theoretical research that is more conducive to a NASA lab environment or an aircraft manufacturer’s environment. One example was some weather-related studies that basically needed FAA scientists cooperating with NASA scientists and the like to refine weather systems. That’s not what the intent of this program is.

This program is designed with the practitioners in mind; with solving the relational process and interface issues that go on at an airport.

AB: If I was a Signature Flight Support located at DFW, and I had some serious questions about, say, taxiway and ramp coordination, and I saw similar problems at my other locations, would this be a proposal that would be considered? Do tenant operations have a role here?

Crites: Absolutely. To that point, let’s say the issue is trying to address airfield layouts. And Signature Flight Support sees inefficiencies that exist at a number of their airports. Others in that stakeholder group may say that they’ve observed that as well, and we think that we should bring together the body of researchers – FAA, airports, and airlines – and assess that situation and see if we can’t identify a better layout, a better process. That’s fair game.

It’s trying to take a rigorous look at the systemic issues facing aviation entities.

AB: Do the approved projects fall into a particular category, or are they across the board?

Crites: We wanted to pick projects that could be addressed in very short order and that we thought would have a high return on investment for all airports in the near term. We want to show this program in its best light and what its capability is. It’s going to come up for reauthorization in FY08.

It makes sense to me that operations should be at the high point of all of this. Operations folks are dealing with all the different stakeholders. That’s where you have all those interface points.

AB: So, do you see the next 18 months as critical to future success?

Crites: This program is going to have to deliver. We picked programs that are highly likely to yield the benefits of the program and help reinforce its value.

Now that we really have funding and have selected projects, the research community and others will begin to take notice and have the confidence that we’ll be able to craft solid research to address their concerns.

Also, this program is not going to survive without the active involvement of the aviation community. My hope is people will now want to participate in conducting this research.

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