George Mason Takes Flight with New Transportation Lab

Posted: April 19, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Emily Yaghmour

George Donohue, a professor in the Department of Systems Engineering and Operations Research, has created a teaching and research transportation lab on the second floor of Science and Technology II, making George Mason one of just a few universities in the world to have such a facility.

The lab is particularly well equipped for teaching and research in air transportation, a field Donohue knows well. As the Federal Aviation Administration’s associate administrator for research and acquisitions from 1994 to 1998, Donohue worked to design and upgrade the infrastructure of the National Airspace System to keep pace with increasing customer demands.

One of the major problems in air transportation today is flight delays, Donohue says. Six major U.S. airports, including San Francisco, Minneapolis, and LaGuardia, are operating at more than 90 percent capacity, while operating at even 50 percent of capacity begins to cause major delays. If this trend continues, Donohue predicts, 57 major U.S. airports will be operating at near or above 80 percent of their flight capacity by the year 2012. New runways cannot be built fast enough to keep up with this kind of demand, he says. Donohue hopes that research conducted in the new transportation lab can help provide solutions to flight delays and attract more students to careers as systems engineers in air transportation.

The lab was made possible by corporate donations. The largest donation came from United Parcel Service, which gave Donohue a grant of more than $40,000 to investigate the feasibility of purchasing a satellite-based global positioning navigation and aircraft surveillance system for each airplane in the UPS fleet. Other funding contributions were made by Hughes Satellite Systems and TRW Systems and Information Technology Group. The Preston Group PTY, Ltd., The MITRE Corporation, Dimensions International, Inc., and Jeppesen contributed software and hardware to the lab.

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