The US FAA has granted a new contract for NEXTOR III, an eight-university consortium in aviation operations research to extends its mission for another seven years with an expenditure limit of $24m.

This represents the second extension of the National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research (NEXTOR), which was set up in 1996.

The announcement comes when there are upheavals in air travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The University of Maryland will act as the lead institution for the NEXTOR III project. For the programme, the university will be led by professors Michael Ball (Robert H. Smith School of Business/Institute for Systems Research) and David Lovell (Civil and Environmental Engineering/Institute for Systems Research).

Other consortium member universities include George Mason University; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of California, Berkeley; the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; the Georgia Institute of Technology; the Ohio State University; and Purdue University.

NEXTOR commenced as one of five centres of excellence created by the FAA to advance new ideas for aviation operations and educating and training aviation professionals.

The consortium’s research, modelling and investment analysis helps to address the requirements of the National Airspace System (NAS) on aviation operational problems whilst promoting improved dialogue between the FAA and the airline industry.

The project’s broad research programme covers air traffic management and control; aviation economics and policy; safety data analysis; communication, data collection and distribution; human factors;  and system performance evaluation and assessment measures.

NEXTOR’s research results have been included in FAA systems and led to improved NAS performance.

The FAA and airline industry improvements due to NEXTOR research ultimately benefit the public.

Lovell said: “We are a source for quality technical research that addresses all three of these perspectives.”

During the current air travel crisis, FAA has urged NEXTOR to organise and moderate webinars about the pandemic’s impact on air travel.

Meanwhile, NEXTOR also is developing particular research projects that will study the extent to which the FAA and the airline industry will be permanently altered, as well as the rate at which airlines might overcome the crisis.

In March, FAA temporarily waived off minimum slot-usage requirements at airports.