Defining and Measuring Aircraft Delay and Airport Capacity Thresholds

Average aircraft delay is often cited as an indication of airport capacity or used as a measure of when to build new runways or other improvements. Airport planners and modelers may deem a certain number of minutes to be "acceptable delay" to help define capacity. Airline delays are reported to the Department of Transportation (DOT) every month by the major carriers and reported publicly as "on-time performance," comparing the airlines' ability to provide a certain level of customer service. The term "Delay" often refers to the amount of extra time experienced by an aircraft or flight. However, they are defined very differently and have different applications to airport planning. At the same time, very little guidance exists as to what amount of delay should be used for determining airport improvements (for many years, the NPIAS suggested four to six minutes of delay at large airports, but that statement is no longer included). Without strong guidelines on airport delays, the general public and airport decisionmakers can have difficulty understanding why just a few minutes of average delay warrant spending millions for capacity enhancements. For the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), most flight delays are not reported until they reach at least 15 minutes. The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) reports airport delays from the FAA's Aviation System Performance Metric (ASPM) database, including taxi-in, taxi-out, and airborne delays. Evaluation of proposed airport development projects identified in individual Airport Master Plans or Environmental Impact Statements rely on evaluations of delay as an indicator of constraints on the airport system. Usually, delay is expressed as a function of Annual Average Delay (AAD) against Annual Service Volume (ASV). While the use of this annual metric works as an indicator of the efficiency of the airfield, it is sometimes too simplistic and may mask the causes of airfield inefficiencies. Many other metrics are available. However for planning and environmental specialists who are not expert in this area, there is no readily available source summarizing each of the metrics along with their strengths and weaknesses, and the appropriate uses. The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook that (1) describes various types of aircraft/flight delays and how the measures are calculated through a synthesis of the major delay metrics and (2) offers guidance about when each delay metric should be used and what specific measures can be used to evaluate airport improvements.</font></div>


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 3-20

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Aviation Administration

    800 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC  USA  20591

    Airport Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Navarrete, Joseph

  • Start Date: 20100715
  • Source Data: RiP Project 24423

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01461806
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 3-20
  • Files: TRB, RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 1:52PM