UC Berkeley press release

NEWS RELEASE, 10/25/96

Federal Aviation Administration to inaugurate new center for air safety and air management research at UC Berkeley on Oct. 31

by Robert Sanders

Berkeley - An inaugural ceremony for The National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31 in Bechtel Hall's Sibley Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus.

The Federal Aviation Administration-sponsored center is being established by a team of universities led by the University of California at Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and including the University of Maryland and the Virginia Polytechnic and State University. The center will be supported by 22 industry partners and involve 10 affiliated universities.

Following the brief ceremony, which will feature remarks by UC Berkeley Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien, FAA Associate Administrator George Donohue and others, the partner organizations will hold a research symposium to discuss the center's agenda.

The symposium will run from 3 to 4:45 p.m. Thursday and from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1. An inaugural dinner will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Faculty Club. All events are open to the public and the press, but advance reservations are required for the $30-per-person dinner.

The National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research will focus on three main topics: developing advanced air traffic management systems, improving air traffic safety and security, and enhancing the performance and productivity of the national aviation system.

Perhaps the center's most significant long-term project concerns the concept of a new-generation air traffic control system in which air traffic controllers will share some decision-making responsibilities with pilots and the airlines. Such a system has the potential to move air traffic more efficiently and at least as safely as the current system. Pilots would use automation tools and advanced navigation and satellite surveillance systems to avoid most potential conflicts without a need for intervention by ground controllers. Automation and other advanced technologies will also be used to improve air traffic safety and security, both in the air and on the ground.

The center's first security-related project deals with a federal commission's recent recommendation that the positive passenger-baggage matching security procedures currently used for international flights be tried on domestic flights. Passenger-baggage matching assures that every passenger who checks a bag boards the flight on which the bag is checked. Before implementing the procedure domestically, however, airlines plan to collect more data which one of the center's industry partners, Sabre Decision Technologies, will use to estimate likely operational impacts and economic costs. The center's role is to provide an independent evaluation of the work done by the airlines and the Sabre DT analysis.

The first safety-related project involves developing a database to collect more specific information on the human factors that contribute to accidents. Using this database, the center researchers may ultimately develop an expert system that could convert people's verbal descriptions of incidents into data that can be used by computers for comprehensive safety analyses. For instance, an expert system might be trained to recognize certain key words, and to search through volumes of accident reports to determine how often those words were used in describing the events leading up to an accident.

The research symposium will be the first opportunity for representatives of all the partner organizations to meet in person.

Industry partners include 14 aviation-related businesses: American Airlines, ATAC, Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, Draper Laboratory, Federal Express, Honeywell, Leigh Fisher Associates, Logistics Management Institute, Metron, Sabre DT, Sagent Corp., Seagull Technology, TASC, Inc. and Wesson International; the state Departments of Transportation for California and Virginia, the Maryland Aviation Administration, the agencies that operate the major airports in Boston, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco; and the Southern California Association of Governments.

The 10 affiliated universities are the Air Force Institute of Technology, George Mason University, the Naval Postgraduate School, Princeton University, SUNY at Buffalo, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, the University of Rochester, the University of Southern California and the University of Texas at Austin.

For further information call: Adib Kanafani, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies and professor of civil engineering at UC Berkeley -- (510) 642-3585 Geoffrey Gosling, ITS assistant research engineer -- (510) 642-9064.

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