Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics


Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Dengfeng Sun

Committee Chair

Dengfeng Sun

Committee Member 1

Daniel Delaurentis

Committee Member 2

Xinyan Deng


The current research focuses on predictability, variability and operational feasibility aspect of Continuous Descent Approach (CDA), which is among the key concepts of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). The idle-thrust CDA is a fuel economical, noise and emission abatement procedure, but requires increased separation to accommodate for variability and uncertainties in vertical and speed profiles of arriving aircraft. Although a considerable amount of researches have been devoted to the estimation of potential benefits of the CDA, only few have attempted to explain the predictability, variability and operational feasibility aspect of CDA. The analytical equations derived using flight dynamics and Base of Aircraft and Data (BADA) Total Energy Model (TEM) in this research gives insight into dependency of vertical profile of CDA on various factors like wind speed and gradient, weight, aircraft type and configuration, thrust settings, atmospheric factors (deviation from ISA (DISA), pressure and density of the air) and descent speed profile. Application of the derived equations to idle-thrust CDA gives an insight into sensitivity of its vertical profile to multiple factors. This suggests fixed geometric flight path angle (FPA) CDA has higher degree of predictability and lesser variability at the cost of non-idle and low thrust engine settings. However, with optimized design this impact can be overall minimized. The CDA simulations were performed using Future ATM Concept Evaluation Tool (FACET) based on radar-track and aircraft type data (BADA) of the real air-traffic to some of the busiest airports in the USA (ATL, SFO and New York Metroplex (JFK, EWR and LGA)). The statistical analysis of the vertical profiles of CDA shows 1) mean geometric FPAs derived from various simulated vertical profiles are consistently shallower than 3° glideslope angle and 2) high level of variability in vertical profiles of idle-thrust CDA even in absence of uncertainties in external factors. Analysis from operational feasibility perspective suggests that two key features of the performance based Flight Management System (FMS) i.e. required time of arrival (RTA) and geometric descent path would help in reduction of unpredictability associated with arrival time and vertical profile of aircraft guided by the FMS coupled with auto-pilot (AP) and auto-throttle (AT). The statistical analysis of the vertical profiles of CDA also suggests that for procedure design window type, `AT or above' and `AT or below' altitude and FPA constraints are more realistic and useful compared to obsolete `AT' type altitude constraint.