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  • Want to Fly STOL or VTOL? Think NextGen
    Posted by Graham Warwick 4:18 PM on Mar 10, 2010

    Ever wondered why commercial aircraft all look and perform pretty much the same? The reason, in part, is because the air traffic control system we have relied on for decades doesn't cope well with aircraft that want to approach on steeper glideslopes and land at lower airspeeds. They mess up the system and aren't welcome at major airports.

    blog post photo
    LCTR concept: NASA

    That could all change once the FAA's NextGen airspace system is fully implemented, according to a study conducted by Sensis for NASA. That's because of NextGen's touted ability to automatically deconflict four-dimensional trajectories and manage multiple independent approaches to an airport. So short-haul STOL airliners could operate from short runways, or commercial VTOL tiltrotors from large helipads, without interfering with the Airbuses and Boeings following their 3-degree glideslopes.

    NASA funded both Sensis and Raytheon to conduct 18-month studies into the impact on airport capacity, delays, the environment and safety of integrating advanced vehicles into NextGen. The vehicle classes are 737-sized cruise-efficient STOL (CESTOL) airliners, 100-seat large commercial tiltrorotors (LCTR), unmanned aircraft, very light jets and supersonic transports.

    blog post photo
    CESTOL concept: NASA

    Sensis' study concluded that CESTOL and LCTR could be big beneficiaries of NextGen, and could significantly increase capacity by operating into underused airports and runways in dense metroplex areas like New York or Washington, flying arrivals and departures that are procedurally seperate from conventional traffic routes.

    The NASA studies looked ahead to 2025 and 2040, so nothing is going to happen any time soon, but they suggest that NextGen, if fully implemented as planned, could eventually change both how we fly and what we fly.

    Tags: tw99, NextGen, NASA

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