An Exploratory Analysis of Commercial Airline Contingency Fuel Calculations: With Forecasting and Optimization Open Access
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Contingency fuel is fuel added to a flight plan by pilots and dispatchers in response to uncertainty factors relating to weather, and flight or traffic conditions expected during departure, enroute, and arrival. This added fuel is reflected in the planned ramp arrival fuel (PRAF). There are penalties to aircraft performance for carrying excess fuel. A portion of the excess fuel is burned to carry the additional weight. Understanding the processes and limitations of the present system may lead to better flight planning. There are human factors influencing the decision process. The current judgmental forecasting system could and can be augmented by implementing forecasting using past data. Better estimates applied to the correct phases of flight can reduce the amount of fuel carried in response to uncertainty factors. This analysis evaluates the data from 316 American Airlines flights during the month of August 2007. The analysis identified elements of the flight planning data which show correlation affecting PRAF. Past data forecasting methods are compared with the current judgmental system. The best outcome discovered came from applying weighted moving averages with exponential smoothing with trend compensation to the data. Results indicate a possible operational savings and reduced variability between Actual Ramp Arrival Fuel (ARAF) and PRAF forecasts. Potential areas for further optimization also identified.