Route Availability Planning Tool (RAPT)

There is a critical need for improved departure management during convective weather in the highly congested airspace in the Northeast and upper Midwest. Departure delays at New York airports can cascade across the whole National Airspace System (NAS), as surface gridlock and reduced gate availability necessitate a reduction of arrival traffic that results in increased airborne holding and ground delays. However, departure queuing models and operational experience in the New York area suggest that even small increases in departure rates can significantly reduce departure delays and queues.

Aerial View of JFK Airport, New York City. (Photo: Alex McMahon)

The Route Availability Planning Tool (RAPT) is an automated decision support tool (DST) intended to help air traffic controllers and airline dispatchers determine which departure routes will be affected by operationally significant convective weather up to 90 minutes into the future (a 30 minute planning window plus 60 minutes flight time). RAPT assigns a departure route status – GREEN for clear, DARK GREEN for low impact, YELLOW for caution and RED for blocked – to future departures by combining CIWS precipitation and echo tops forecasts with a model for New York departure operations (Figure 1). Figure 2 shows the RAPT user display. Figure 3 and Figure 4 illustrate examples of RAPT usage.

RAPT Development

RAPT was developed as an experimental prototype in the summer of 2002 with funding from the Port Authority of New York / New Jersey and has evolved in response to feedback from operational users and post-event analysis of performance. In 2007, the FAA took over the sponsorship of the program and Lincoln continued to operate the NY RAPT prototype.

Currently, RAPT users include air traffic control personnel in the Newark (EWR), LaGuardia (LGA), Kennedy (JFK) and Teterboro, NJ (TEB) towers, the New York TRACON (N90), four ARTCCs [New York (ZNY), Washington, DC (ZDC), Cleveland (ZOB) and Boston (ZBW)] and the FAA Command Center (ATCSCC), as well as airline dispatchers at several commercial airlines (Continental, JetBlue, Northwest and Delta).

There is also a Web-based RAPT display that supports access to real time and archived RAPT products over the Internet. A “morning after” web site (RAPT Evaluation and Post-Event Analysis Tool, or REPEAT) provides traffic and weather visualizations to support post-event analysis of New York area departure operations. Research is ongoing to improve the operational model and user display, account for forecast uncertainty, provide real-time performance scoring and extend RAPT to other terminal areas.

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