Workshop on

National Airspace System Resource Allocation: Economics and Equity

March 19-20, 2002
Wye Woods Conference Center
The Aspen Institute
Queenstown, MD

Agenda: It has become increasingly apparent that demand for National Airspace System (NAS) resources has become very close to NAS capacity. Although measures are constantly being taken to increase capacity and, in spite of the recent demand decrease resulting from the events of September 11, it seems clear that demand and capacity will continue to remain very close into the foreseeable future. Consequently, it is imperative that a well-thought-out strategy and sound analytic principles be applied to NAS resource allocation.

Probably the most obvious resource is a fixed departure or arrival time slot at an airport. Each flight scheduled in the Official Airline Guide (OAG) requires two such slots. Most of these slots today are not formally allocated. Yet, increasingly it is clear that these slots represent a valuable limited resource that should be rationed in an intelligent manner. In the well-publicized case of LaGuardia Airport a lottery was used to carry out the allocation. Departure slots, on a given day, are subject to very different resource allocation mechanisms when a Ground Delay Program (GDP) is imposed on an airport. In such situations, the airport acceptance rate and, thus, the number of arrival slots are reduced so that special short term rationing techniques must be imposed. The newly developed Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) mechanisms, ration-by-schedule and compression, are now used to achieve this shorter term rationing. Resource rationing is carried out in many other contexts usually using informal criteria. For example, traffic flow management units very often must make decisions on which groups of flights get delayed, which get rerouted, etc. These decisions are typically made based on local, informal criteria.

As the NAS becomes more constrained and airspace congestion increases, more attention is being paid to how resources are allocated. The issue of insuring equity among NAS users has been recognized as vital. The possibility of using market mechanisms, e.g. slot auctions, to allocate resources is being discussed. It seems that there is a critical need to carefully study these issues and bring to bear knowledge obtained in other resource allocation contexts.

Topics to be discussed include:
1) The various types and levels of NAS resources that are becoming scarce and must be rationed;
2) The allocation mechanisms in use today, including, the operation of slot controlled airports, the LaGuardia Lottery, the CDM procedures;
3) Research that has investigated the fundamental principles underlying NAS resource allocation;
4) Research and experience from other settings where formal procedures have been used to allocate scarce resources, e.g. spectrum and electricity auctions;
5) Research and experience related to equity in resource allocation.

Michael Ball, University of Maryland
George Donohue, George Mason University
Karla Hoffman, George Mason University

Program and Presentation Files

Sponsored by:
George Mason University Foundation (with funding from the Logistics Management Institute and Metron Aviation)
NEXTOR, the National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research (with funding from the Federal Aviation Administration)
University of Maryland