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Aviation Operations Research Group Gets New Contract and New Name

The aviation research consortium, NEXTOR, has recently been awarded a new seven-year contract that will provide up to $60 million for aviation research. The program also has a new name: NEXTOR II.

For more than a decade, NEXTOR (the National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research) has carried out a broad research program encompassing a wide range of programs of vital interest to the Federal Aviation Administration and the airline industry. NEXTOR research has addressed development of new airspace system architectures as well as operational concepts and related decision support models and tools—some of which have been incorporated into FAA systems and have resulted in better performance and use of the National Air Space.

The consortium of participating universities has expanded as well. In addition to its original core institutions—UC Berkeley, the University of Maryland, George Mason University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University—NEXTOR II will also include the Georgia Institute of Technology, Ohio State University, and Purdue University.

“NEXTOR II will function in many ways the same as the existing program,” explained Berkeley’s NEXTOR director, Mark Hansen, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “It will provide a way to develop research with the FAA without running into time-consuming issues of procurement and competitively bidding for every project.”

In essence, NEXTOR allows researchers to take problem-solving ideas to interested individuals within the FAA without jumping through numerous administrative hoops.

“Here at UC Berkeley, our research agenda will be essentially the same but with new frontiers,” added Hansen. The Berkeley group has concentrated on areas within air traffic management that enable airlines to have better input into decisions that the FAA makes concerning the management of air traffic. It has also focused on issues related to flight cancellation as well as the effects of increasing oil prices.

On average, 10 ITS graduate students each year work on aviation projects provided through the NEXTOR program, said Hansen.

“The program is really a win-win for all involved: the FAA, the universities, and our graduate students who will go on to become the next generation of aviation researchers,” he added. Graduates typically pursue careers in government agencies, within the airlines, or at universities.

In fact, the addition of the new participating universities as well as the addition of five affiliates—Embry Riddle, Morgan State University, San Jose State University, University of South Florida and the University of Colorado—is a reflection of students trained at Berkeley and other core institutions who are now continuing to work as faculty in the area of aviation research at the affiliate universities.