Multidiscipline collaboration within the aviation industry must be aircraft centric in order to be efficient, effective, and progressive in the technological era in which we are living. The implementation of advancements in aircraft technology leads the required physical infrastructure and public policy to accommodate the technology. This synopsis explains how potential aircraft advancements and the exchange of data between multiple stakeholders can facilitate real-time decisions, making the aviation environment safer and more economical for all.
Current State of Airport Planning and Airfield Improvements:
• Airport Master Plan (AMP) is updated for airports every 3 to 5 years;
• Typically includes subsection on infrastructure condition and anticipated near-term rehabilitation needs as dictated by pavement condition, geometric improvements, economic development, etc.;
• Pending funding availability, an airport may typically perform one significant construction project per year;
• At the time of project execution, the planning documents and estimates from the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) are dated to the time of the AMP and concurrent Airport Pavement Management System Update (APMS); and
• Projects are typically either underestimated constraining scopes during design and construction to a budget because of the lack of available data, or projects are programmed; and at the time of funding availability, the pavement has not deteriorated as anticipated and the project can be postponed, yet is usually executed anyway because of the inability to quickly and easily program a replacement project.
Current State of Airport Payment Management Systems (APMS):
• Pavement Condition Index (PCI):
o Value between 0-100 that identifies the overall visual condition of the pavement surface based on the type, quantity, and severity of pavement surface distresses;
o Manual inspections performed on approximately 5% - 20% of the overall pavement area depending on the number of sample units and uniformity of pavement distresses within the pavement section;
o Inspections performed every 3 to 5 years; and
o Updates of data from industry literature or historic PCI inspections to predict modeling of pavement distresses and PCI value.
• Pavement Strength:
o Heavy-Weight Deflectometer (HWD) Testing is performed on interval locations along a centerline and/or main gear path of a pavement feature to measure the deflection in the pavement when exposed to a heavy plate loading;
o Record drawings from historic projects coupled with Geotechnical investigation provides additional existing structural layer properties and thicknesses; and
o The remaining pavement life is estimated based on the anticipated aircraft traffic and number of operations.
• Capital Improvement Program (CIP):
o The PCI and structural integrity of the pavement are evaluated together to determine the need for localized maintenance, rehabilitation, or reconstruction projects;
o Projects are prioritized by the pavements section use (Runways, Taxiways, or Aprons), rank (primary, secondary, or tertiary [shoulders/blast pads]);
o CIP may include a 5 to 10-year outlook with annual or biennial projects;
o All project estimates are based on extrapolated pavement distress data over the section area; and
o The CIP forms the basis of estimates for programming and funding and is only updated every 3 to 5 years.
Current State of Aircraft Insurance Policy:
• Insurance policies are not standardized and vary widely;
• No single insurer has the resources to retain a risk the size of a major airline, or even a substantial proportion of such a risk;
• Airlines have policies to cover the entire fleet;
• Many general insurance policies obtained for an aircraft are based on specific conditions:
o Aircraft Insurance covers repairs to damage aircraft;
o Aviation Accident Insurance (passenger liability) covers injury or death;
o Public Liability Insurance covers the repairs to damage to third-party property;
o Ground Risk Hull Insurance covers damage to the aircraft for such events as fire, theft, vandalism, flood, mudslides, animal damage, wind or hailstorms, hangar collapse or for uninsured vehicles or aircraft striking the aircraft;
o In-Flight Insurance covers insured aircraft against damage during all phases of flight and ground operation;
o Additional insurance for damage to other airport, hangar, and relevant land-based property;
o Insurance rates are dependent on:
Use of aircraft: recreational vs commercial vs training;
Ownership of aircraft: rented vs owned vs multiple users; and
Fabrication of aircraft: home-built vs pre-assembled;
The aircraft is the vehicle in which to bring these two components together in order to restructure the way of doing business. Technology is continuously advancing in the development of cameras, sensors, lasers, survey devices, gauges, etc. for aircraft and further research is needed to evaluate the best mechanism by which to extract, analyze, and evaluate the pavement data discussed herein.
A synergistic exchange of data between airfield pavements, aircraft, airport/airline operators, and aircraft insurance companies.
Aircraft Infrastructure Needs:
• A variety of new technology can be used to detect and maintain a database of current pavement conditions:
o An array of cameras, sensors, etc. can continuously capture the visual pavement distresses, i.e. cracking, surface deformations, surface texture, etc.;
o Sensors can capture resistance of the tires to skidding upon landing;
o Sensors can to continuously capture the minor deflections in the pavement structure as it is impacted by the main gear (like Heavy-Weight Deflectometer testing);
o All of the data can be geospatially coordinated with a specific pavement section within the airport network; and
o A communication link between the aircraft and the stakeholders, and a platform in which to operate, is necessary and international standardization will be required.
Airport Stakeholder Benefits:
• Real-time visual and structural data will be available to provide project level (100% coverage) quantities for maintenance or rehabilitation items;
• Seasonal variations in pavement strength (i.e due to seasonal high groundwater tables or frost depth) can be evaluated via pavement deflection and real-time aircraft weight restrictions can be implemented to prevent undue distress to the pavement as a result of overloading under compromised conditions which prolongs the life of the pavement;
• Deflections can be continuously evaluated to determine structural deficiencies and even predict distresses prior to visual observation of the distress on the surface of the pavement;
• Continuous data being collected allows the immediate identification of maintenance needs and accurate quantities as they are developing;
• Project development, planning, programming, and scoping can be more accurate with more continuous, comprehensive, in-depth, and up to date data;
• Federal, State, and Local funding sources will be utilized more efficiently on real-time infrastructure projects; and
• There is no impact to aircraft operations which provides a safer operating environment free of wandering inspectors and prevents delays as pavements are not needed to be closed in order to collect data.
Airline/Insurance Company Benefits:
• The collection of new pavement data, coupled with existing data sources such as flight plans, maintenance records, manifest, etc. will allow the restructuring of insurance policy to follow consumption based variable rates more applicable to individual users;
• Data collected and used in determination of the insurance rate can be specific to the aircraft, the current pavement conditions at the origin and destination, the pilot(s), and operating conditions;
• The risks to which the aircraft and the persons and property adjacent are exposed can be more accurately measured and quantified and thus the insurance required to mitigate these risks can be more accurately computed;
• The successful "Good Driver Programs" that auto insurers are currently employing can be mimicked for the aviation industry. Imagine that aircraft insurance policy can now be defined by such variables as:
o The condition of the pavement the actual aircraft is utilizing specific to the taxi route and runway utilized, i.e. pavements with more cracks have higher FOD potential and more risk for engine damage;
o The actual time the aircraft is exposed to a particular risk, i.e. parked in a hangar, during taxi, during takeoff, or during flight;
o The age and experience of the pilot and copilots and perhaps coupled with real-time biometrics to further define pilot acuity, awareness, and ability;
o The number of passengers and the value of the good being transported on a specific flight; and
o The ability to use real-time data to avoid a future risk detected by an aircraft further along enroute to the destination.
This idea spans many industries and requires collaboration amongst all stakeholders to determine the cost to cover research and development through implementation.
• Existing, proposed, and potentially retrofitted aircraft technologies for data collection;
• The platform for analysis of big data for decision-supporting information;
• The safe and efficient transfer of data between the stakeholders;
• A deeper understanding of commercial aircraft insurance industry and how the data may be impactful;
• Technology and platform for international standardization; and
• Industry implementation plan.