Faculty Spotlight: Society of Automotive Engineers Recognizes John-Paul Clarke with Environmental Excellence in Transportation Award

May 11, 2016 | Atlanta, GA

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has recognized Georgia Tech professor John-Paul Clarke with its 2016 Environmental Excellence in Transportation (E2T) Award. Clarke is a professor of the School of Aerospace Engineering with a courtesy appointment in the Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISyE).

The director of GT-AE’s Air Transportation Lab (ATL), Clarke traveled to Detroit last month to formally receive the honor during SAE’s World Congress.

The Society honored Clarke for his work as the principal investigator on a research team included colleagues from Delta Air Lines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  Under Clarke's direction, the team developed the RIIVR Optimized Profile Decent (OPD) Arrival procedure at Los Angeles International Airport. Implemented in 2007, the procedure has reduced the fuel consumed by arrivals at LAX by an estimated 2 million gallons annually.

“In addition to reducing the amount of fuel consumed, CO2 and NOx emissions are also reduced – environmental considerations that are hindering the growth of aviation,” said Clarke.

The OPD procedure, pioneered by Clarke, minimizes noise, gaseous emissions, fuel consumption, and flight time while simultaneously maintaining or in some cases increasing landing efficiency via the accurate modeling of the vehicle’s performance when there are uncertainties with respect to aircraft weight, pilot performance, and turbulence.

“Instead of allowing aircraft to begin their descent and then periodically stopping their descent so that air traffic controllers can correct for the effects of uncertainties, we model the effects of these uncertainties ahead of time and compensate for them in a strategic manner through optimal spacing prior to the start of the descent, thereby allowing the aircraft descend continuously at or near idle thrust,” said Clarke.

Also honored by SAE  at the World Congress were Grady Boyce (technical pilot at Delta Air Lines); Sandy Liu (engineer in the FAA Office of Environment and Energy); Walter White (formerly the airspace manager in the FAA Southern California TRACON and now the CEO of PBN4ATC, Inc.); Jim Brooks (senior research scientist in GT ATL); Gaurav Nagle (formerly a graduate student in GT ATL and now a systems engineer at Lockheed Martin); Liling Ren (formerly a research engineer in GT ATL and now a principal scientist at the GE Global Research Center); and Annalisa Scacchioli (formerly a post-doc in the  ATL and now an assistant professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology).

In addition to LAX, the OPD procedure has been adopted at several other busy airports, including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Anchorage International Airport (ANC), and Honolulu International Airport (HNL). The FAA estimates this has shaved $21.7 million off the annual fuel costs for these four airports, and “if you extrapolate those figures to the top 35 airports, we could see a savings of $112 million per year in fuel costs.”

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Kathleen Moore

Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering

404.894.3003