Research Projects

Optimizing Airfield Snow Removal

"The objective of this project is to research best practices focused on managing the resources at airports to optimize the number of runways and taxiways that can be kept open during winter storms. The guidelines should include using process optimization to reduce variation caused by unpredictable weather events and computer simulation analyses to optimize the number of equipment needed, resources required, and optimize the best deployment pattern for the snow removal equipment.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

"During the winter months, airports are challenged with keeping runways, taxiways and ramps cleaned during unpredictable weather events. When airports fail, it causes delayed and cancelled flights and can lead to huge fines, like the one the FAA placed on Cleveland Hopkins Airport in 2015 for $735K. This has led to airport industry groups (e.g., AAAE and ACI-NA) to share best practices, lessons learned, and knowledge gained.

During storm events, heavy snow can reduce visibility. However, the most dangerous problem airports face is ice on the airfield surfaces. For example, in 2015, New York's JFK airport was shut down for hours when an aircraft skidded off the runway. Airports invest millions of dollars in equipment and chemicals to combat the snow and ice buildup, but very little has been done to optimize the use of the equipment and chemicals while dealing with the unpredictability of weather events. The current approaches force airport resources to react to the snow events instead of controlling the situation using standards and predictive modeling. This reaction creates inefficiencies in managing the available resources to optimize the number of available runways to maintain the needed runway capacity for the flight schedule. In one example, the snow plows were sent to a runway to clear the snow. Before the snow plows arrived it was decided to close the runway for the duration of the storm. Had the snow desk had better tools they could have predicted the closure of the runway and directed the snow plows to other areas of the airport.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

"The objective of this project is to research best practices focused on managing the resources at airports to optimize the number of runways and taxiways that can be kept open during winter storms. The guidelines should include using process optimization to reduce variation caused by unpredictable weather events and computer simulation analyses to optimize the number of equipment needed, resources required, and optimize the best deployment pattern for the snow removal equipment.

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Idea No. 12