Date of Award

Spring 2023

Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation

Department

College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Steven Hampton, Ed.D.

First Committee Member

David Esser, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Marwa El-Sayed, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Guy Gratton, Ph.D.

College Dean

Alan J. Stolzer, Ph.D.

Abstract

Climate change affects the near-surface environmental conditions that prevail at airports worldwide. Among these, air density and headwind speed are major determinants of takeoff performance, and their sensitivity to global warming carries potential operational and economic implications for the commercial air transport industry. Previous archival and prospective research observed a weakening in headwind strength and predicted an increase in near-surface temperatures, respectively, resulting in an increase in takeoff distances and weight restrictions. The main purpose of the present study was to update and generalize the extant prospective research using a more representative sample of worldwide airports, a wider range of climate scenarios, and next-generation climate models. The research questions included how much additional thrust and payload removal will be required to offset the centurial changes in takeoff conditions. This study relied on a quantitative method using the simulation instrument. Forecast climate data corresponding to four shared socioeconomic pathways (SSP1‒2.6, SSP2‒4.5, SSP3‒7.0, and SSP5‒8.5) over the available 2015‒2100 period were sourced from a high-resolution CMIP6 global circulation model. These data were used to characterize the six-hourly near-surface environmental conditions prevailing at all 881 airports worldwide having at least one million passengers in pre-COVID‒19 traffic. The missing air density was iii numerically derived from the air temperature, pressure, and humidity variables, while the headwind speed for each airport’s active runway configuration was triangulated from the wind vector components. Separately, a direct takeoff-dynamics simulation model was developed from first principles and calibrated against published performance data under international standard atmospheric conditions for two narrowbody and two widebody aircraft. The model was used to simulate 1.8 billion unique takeoffs, each initiated at 75% of maximum takeoff thrust and 100% of maximum takeoff mass. When the resulting takeoff distance required exceeded that available, the takeoff thrust was gradually increased to 100%, after which the takeoff mass was gradually decreased to an estimated breakeven load factor. In total, 65 billion takeoff iterations were simulated. Longitudinal changes to takeoff thrust, distance, and payload were recorded and examined by aircraft type, climate scenario, and climate zone. The results show that despite a marked centurial increase in the global mean air temperature of 9.4%‒18.0% relative to the year 2015 under SSP2‒4.5 and SSP3‒7.0, air density will only decrease by 0.6%‒1.1% due to its weak sensitivity to temperature. Likewise, mean headwinds were observed to remain almost unchanged relative to the 2015 baseline. As a result, the global mean takeoff thrust was found to increase by no more than 0.3 percentage point while payload removals did not exceed 1.1 passenger. Significant deviations from the mean were observed at climatic outlier airports, including those located around the Siberian plateau, where takeoff operations may become more difficult. This study contributes to the air transport climate adaption body of knowledge by providing contrasting results relative to earlier research that reported strong impacts of global warming on takeoff performance.

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