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FAA Grants Funding Extension for U of Maryland-Led Aviation Research Consortium

The Federal Aviation Administration has awarded a potential seven-year, $24 million contract to a University of Maryland-led consortium that conducts research on operational issues facing the government and commercial aviation sectors.

The award marks the agency's second funding renewal to support the National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research mission and comes at a time of critical upheavals in air travel emerging and on the horizon as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, UMD's Robert H. Smith School of Business said Thursday.

UMD Professors Michael Ball and David Lovell will lead the university's efforts for NEXTOR III, the Consortium in Aviation Operations Research composed of eight universities.

"Obviously COVID-19 already has had a huge impact on aviation," Ball said. "The pandemic will result in some fundamental changes to air transportation."

NEXTOR began as one of five Centers of Excellence created by the FAA to lead the aviation community in advancing new ideas and paradigms for aviation operations, educating and training aviation professionals and promoting knowledge transfer among industry, government and academic leaders.

The NEXTOR team’s basic research, modeling and investment analysis has addressed the needs of the National Airspace System (NAS) on a wide range of aviation operational problems as well as promoted increased dialogue between the FAA and the airline industry. 

The program has encompassed research on air traffic management and control; safety data analysis; aviation economics and policy; human factors; communication, data collection and distribution; and system performance evaluation and assessment measures.

NEXTOR's decision support tools, operational and system concepts, and policymaking tools have had a substantial impact on aviation practice. Its research results have been incorporated into FAA systems and have led to improved NAS performance.

The FAA and airline industry improvements brought about by NEXTOR research ultimately benefit the traveling public. "We are a source for quality technical research that addresses all three of these perspectives," Lovell noted.

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