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Improving Airport Master Planning Process Through Robust Decisionmaking (RDM) Approach



Airport master and environmental planning process is an essential element in assessing major facility improvements and long-term capital investment decisions at an airport. Some of the same analytical tools used in these planning efforts are also used to improve short-term operational efficiencies that are critical to the sustenance of an airport.

The current airport master planning process is fundamentally based on the systems planning approach that was developed over 50 years ago. It involves, among others, demand projections, requirements analysis, alternatives analysis, and implementation plan development. Despite the importance of master planning, the current approach is inadequate to serve the industry that is becoming increasingly complex. The systems approach does not adequately address the uncertainties that can occur over the 20-year master plan planning horizon and that can have expensive consequences with serious political, economic and environmental risks.

Robust decisionmaking (RDM) approach is designed to handle these uncertainties by efficiently assessing those uncertainties with highest risks, thereby introducing robustness into the master planning process. The RDM approach has been applied in other urban and regional planning context, including water resource planning, and has proven to be quite effective. The RDM approach is easily adaptable for the aviation industry and can be embedded into the existing airport master planning process with minimum implementation risks.


 The primary objective is to develop an airport planning methodology that improves upon existing industry practices by (1) specifically addressing the impact of uncertainties through the application of RDM technique and (2) embedding the RDM method into the existing process with minimum impact on current industry practices.

The atticipated product would be a guidebook that supplements FAA advisory circulars and other industry guidelines associated with airport master and environmental planning process. A prototype model and/or analytical tool may be developed to interface with the existing master planning tools and models.


Following research tasks are broadly envisioned:

Review current industry practices and guidelines in airport master and environmental planning

Assess potential RDM applications and identify improvements to current industry practices, including appropriate metrics

Identify and establish specific RDM interfaces with the existing master and environmental planning process at major task level

Develop, where beneficial, models and/or analytical tools for interfacing RDM methodology with existing master planning models and tools

 Prepare implementation plan for embedding RDM approach into current industry practices

 Develop a guidebook documenting major findings


Recommended Funding:

It is recommended that the study be performed in two phases, each phase involving two to three staff-years with an approximate budget of $500,000 per phase.

Research Period:

Anticipated research period would be one year per phase (total 2 years) including 3 months for review and revision of a draft final report.


The RDM application would have an immediate payoff by improving the current industry practices significantly. The critical element to the proposed research would be to embed the RDM approach in the existing practices, which is user-friendly, easily adaptable by the industry practitioners, and with minimum implementation risks.


Following is a representative sample of past and current research efforts related to RDM applications in urban and regional planning:

Preparing for an Uncertain Future Climate in the Inland Empire  Identifying Robust Water Management Strategies. RAND, DB-550-NSF, 2008.

 Climate Change to Water Resource Managers  Summary of Workshops with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency. RAND TR-505-NSF, 2008.

 Estimating the Value of Water Use Efficiency in the Inter-mountain West. RAND TR-504-Hewlett, 2008.

 Evaluating the Benefits and Costs of Increased Water Use Efficiency in Commercial Buildings. RAND TR-461-Nathanson, 2007.

 A New Analytic Method for Finding Policy-Relevant Scenarios, Global Environmental Change, vol. 17, 73-85, 2007.

Applying Robust Decisionmaking to the Risk-Informed Decision Framework for Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration, RAND PM-2160-USACE, 2006.

 A General, Analytic Method for Generating Robust Strategies and Narrative Scenarios, Management Science, vol. 52, no. 4, 2006.

Quantified Scenarios of 2030 California Water Demand. In California Water Plan Update 2005. California Department of Water Resources, Sacramento, CA.

Shaping the Next One Hundred Years: New Methods for Quantitative, Long-Term Policy Analysis, RAND, MR-1626-CR, 2003.

ïRobust Strategies for Abating Climate Change, RAND, RP-904, 2001.


Sponsoring Committee:AV020, Aviation System Planning

The several senior personnel from RAND Corporation with aviation industry and RDM experience contributed in developing the problem, including:
�� Dr. M. Julie Kim, Senior Engineer (aviation planning expertise)
�� Dr. David Groves, Associate Policy Researcher (RDM expertise)
�� Dr. Marty Wachs, Transportation, Space, and Technology Program Director

These contributors are located in the following RAND offices:
�� 1776 Main Street, P.O. Box 2138, Santa Monica, California, 90407-2138 (Tel. 310-393-0411; Fax. 310-393-4818)
�� 1200 South Hayes Street, Arlington, VA 22202-5050 (Tel. 703-413-1100; Fax. 703-413-8111)


The research problem was initially formulated based on feedback from several industry practitioners, both major airport authorities and private-sector consultants in the U.S. and overseas.
Date: April 30, 2008

Submitted By: M. Julie Kim, Senior Engineer, RAND Corporation
Date Posted:08/03/2008
Date Modified:05/23/2012
Index Terms:Airport operations, Master plans, Airport planning, Decision making, Robust planning, Risk assessment, Environmental impacts,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Planning and Forecasting

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