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2009.07.14 > For Immediate Release
contact: Wendy Townley - University Relations
phone: 402.554.2762 - email: wtownley@unomaha.edu

Aviation Students Nationally Recognized by FAA

Omaha - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently presented the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) a third-place award at the 2009 Design Competition for Universities.

Joseph Rotterdam, Jess Potthoff and Michael Cameron – students in UNO’s Aviation Institute – were honored in the category of Airport Management and Planning Challenge. Rotterdam recently graduated with a bachelor's degree from UNO; Potthoff and Cameron are UNO graduate students.

Their project, “Technology-based Communication Solutions for Reduced Fuel Consumption in the Airport Environment,” aims to reduce airline fuel consumption.

As part of the competition, students are required to contact airport operators and industry experts to advise them in their proposals and help them assess the benefits of their proposal. Earlier this year the three students conducted face-to-face interviews with leading management at Continental Airlines, both at the Continental Airlines headquarters in Houston, Texas, and at the Continental Hub Operations Center at the nearby George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

What follows are excerpts from the proposal, which better details the project.

Fuel is an important resource to many stakeholders in the aviation industry. Airports rely on fuel to power vehicles and maintenance equipment. Ground handlers rely on fuel to power tugs, baggage belts, and other service equipment. Finally, airlines rely on fuel to power the aircraft and move passengers from point to point. High energy prices and a renewed effort to reduce harmful emissions led to several new technologies and procedures aimed at mitigating these two issues. The following research is in response to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Design Competition, specifically looking at ways to reduce fuel consumption in the airport environment. Two technologies have been identified that can reduce fuel consumption for airlines, both on the ground and in the air: ADS-B and data link.

ADS-B uses a combination of ground stations located on or near airports, GPS satellites, and aircraft avionics to give pilots and controllers an accurate depiction of traffic, both on the ground and in the sky. This depiction is then used by air traffic controllers and other pilots to gain awareness of what is happening around them. The system relies on continuous broadcasts of aircraft position, speed, and other information that is sent to ground stations and other properly equipped aircraft. Because aircraft position data is obtained through satellites, ADS-B is much more accurate than current ground-based radar and is highly effective during periods of severe weather and poor visibility.

Data link is a digital means to transmit information from the ground-based controller to the airborne pilot (Navarro & Sikorski, 1999). Unlike conventional voice-based air traffic control (ATC) communications technology, the Controller Pilot Data Link Communication (CPDLC) system allows pilots and controllers to exchange text-based messages via specifically designated data links, thereby reducing voice communication congestion (Baik & Trani, 2005). CPDLC currently uses Very High Frequency (VHF) or satellite communication link to route text messages that are then displayed on the Flight Management System (FMS) or Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) screens in the cockpit (Nolan, 2004). CPDLC build 1 consists of four basic services: Transfer of Communications (TOC) for directing a pilot to change the assigned voice frequency, Initial Contact (IC) for verification of the pilot’s assigned altitude, Altimeter Setting (AS) for up-linking barometric pressure data, and Menu Text (MT) for up-linking a predefined set of text messages.


As part of their prize, the three UNO students received $1,000 from the FAA.

“The FAA competition offers our students the opportunity for practical application of the skills and knowledge developed in their courses at UNO,” said Scott Tarry, director of the UNO Aviation Institute. “We’re extremely proud of the team and grateful for the support provided by Continental Airlines. The students’ interaction with the airline’s staff added considerable value to the learning experience and the final report.”

The competition was created for college students, working with a faculty member, to address airport operations and infrastructure issues and needs. Students were presented with a variety of technical challenges relating to airport operations and maintenance, runway safety, airport environmental interactions, and airport management and planning.

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The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The celebration recognizes the partnership among the City of Omaha, its citizens and UNO to build a vibrant and dynamic community. The centennial theme is UNO: Central To Our City Since 1908. This theme acknowledges the past contributions of UNO to the community and sets the stage for great things to come. UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908. For Centennial information, go to www.unomaha.edu/100/.

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