Actual airborne time (AAT) is the time between wheels-off and wheels-on of a flight. Understanding the behaviour of AAT is increasingly important given the ever growing demand for air travel and flight delays becoming more rampant. Yet no research on AAT exists. This paper performs the first empirical analysis of AAT behaviour, comparatively for the U.S. and China. The focus is on how AAT is affected by scheduled block time (SBT), origin-destination (OD) distance, and the possible pressure to reduce AAT from other parts of flight operations. Multiple econometric models are developed. The estimation results show that in both countries AAT is highly correlated with SBT and OD distance. In addition, flights in the U.S. are faster than in China. Facing ground delay prior to take-off, a flight has limited capability to speed up. Furthermore, the pressure from short turnaround time after landing to reduce AAT is immaterial. Sensitivity analysis of AAT to flight length and aircraft utilization is further conducted. Given the more abundant airspace, more flexible routing networks, and more efficient ATFM procedures, a counterfactual that the AAT behaviour of the U.S. were adopted in China is examined. We find that significant efficiency gains could be achieved in the Chinese air traffic system. On average, 11.8 minutes of AAT per flight would be saved, coming from both reduction in SBT and reduction in AAT relative to the new SBT. System-wide fuel saving would amount to over 300 million gallons, with a direct airline operating cost saving of nearly $1.3 billion in 2016. Apart from the above topic, I will also in this talk briefly describe a few other recent and on-going research projects conducted in my group on aviation systems analysis and air traffic management.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Bo Zou is an associate professor in transportation systems engineering at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and an affiliate faculty of the Center of Excellence for Airport Technology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He was also a visiting associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Zou’s research interests are in the broad area of transportation systems modelling and analysis, with particular focus on air transportation. His research has been supported by a number of agencies including the World Bank, the US National Science Foundation, the US Department of Transportation, and the US Department of Energy. He is an associate editor of Transportation Letters: the International Journal of Transportation Research, an editorial board editor of Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, and an editorial board member of Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies, Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Transport Policy, and Frontiers in Future Transportation. He is also a member of the Transportation Network Modelling Committee of Transportation Research Board. Dr. Zou obtained his Ph.D. in transportation engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, M.S. in transportation planning and management from Tsinghua University in China, Diplôme d’Ingénieur from the Ecole Centrale de Nantes in France, and B.E. in civil engineering from Tsinghua University.

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