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Airport design software applications

Fin Bonset | 30 Jun 2014 | Comments

New software tool upgrades for the latest applications to FAA airport planning requirements

In the last two years, the Federal Aviation Administration‘s (FAA) main airport planning and design guideline document, the Advisory Circular (AC) 150-5300-13, has been through a major revision (now called “13A”). One of the most significant changes of the new AC is the revised taxiway design criteria, which has significantly affected the psyche and way of thinking for today’s airport planner.

A new “Taxiway Design Group” (TDG) was introduced to incorporate elements related to actual aircraft movements of a specific taxiing aircraft instead of previous requirements that were based only on wingspan and tail height requirements. TDG is now based on Main Gear Width (MGW) combined with Cockpit to Main Gear (CMG) distance. Furthermore, all taxiway fillet designs are now based on maintaining the aircraft’s cockpit over the centerline that essentially eliminates the old judgmental over-steering concept from old airport design literature. To compensate for the overall elimination of judgmental over-steering, which is basically a way to reduce fillet pavement, the turning radii for each design group has been decreased significantly. An example is the Airplane Design Group ADG-VI radius of 170 feet has been reduced and changed in designation to “TDG-7” with only 130 feet of radius. This new approach saves up to 5-15% on the amount of fillet required depending on the TDG, and it reduces overall costs, the latter being the overall goal for the FAA.

A clear example of the FAA’s continual aim toward modernization and efficiency is that the use of Computer Aided Design (CAD) software is now mentioned within the new advisory circular as a tool to model aircraft movements, in particular, for intersections with non-standard angles. This very mention is an indirect recommendation and subsequent motivation for airport planners to become more efficient by using such software. Fortunately, Atkins’ aviation planning team already has the in-house capability to conduct the newly required taxiway geometric design simulations through its license with Transoft Solutions/Simtra PathPlanner software. Our aviation planning team is well-versed in the use of this software and is benefitting from its efficiency and subsequent cost savings on projects. Additionally, Atkins is executing a complete integration of the software’s latest capabilities with resident airport planning and CAD software experts.

In mentioning the latest use of airport planning software, just recently Simtra launched the sixth generation (version A6) of its leading airside design CAD based software PathPlanner. PathPlanner A6 not only adds a new dimension to taxiway fillet design, it is also an innovative piece of software in many other ways, including airport planning items such as power-in/power-out maneuvering, aircraft gate stand planning, jetblast analyses, and now 3D passenger boarding bridge simulations. Most recently, Atkins airport planners have used the software for gate stand analyses at New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport and at Qingdao International Airport in China where aircraft pushback operations were analyzed for capacity constraints.

With the world evolving towards a continued need for realistic simulations of future concepts and focusing on 3-dimensional visions, it is important to ensure that the latest software is always available to airport planners. With our current experience in this new realm and our existing technical in-house expertise, Atkins plans to remain at the forefront of new technology delivering that “wow” factor. Our aviation planning team will continue to excel in providing our clients with the latest and greatest airport planning technology demonstrating the highest applicability standards to the new FAA airport design requirements.