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AVIATION SAFETY PROGRAM
Radical innovation is taking place in order to help our national airspace meet future demands. The Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, will make travel through increasingly crowded skies more efficient and speedy while maintaining or increasing safety.

In NextGen, state-of-the-art networking technology will continually update its data and share that information with pilots and controllers. Aircraft will be able to immediately adjust to changing factors such as weather, traffic congestion, positions of other aircraft, flight trajectories and any terrestrial or airborne security concerns.

NASA's Aviation Safety Program (AvSP) helps to realize this new future's full potential by examining the challenges that come with further reducing risk in a complex, dynamic operating domain like NextGen.

Working with partners, AvSP provides fundamental research of already existing safety challenges and on new and emerging challenges created by the transition to NextGen -- significant increases in air traffic, introduction of new vehicle concepts, continued operation of legacy vehicles, increased reliance on automation, and increased operating complexity.

AvSP's top ten technical challenges are:
  • Assurance of Flight Critical Systems
  • Discovery of Precursors to Safety Incidents
  • Assuring Safe Human-Systems Integration
  • Prognostic Algorithm Design for Safety Assurance
  • Improve Crew Decision-Making and Response in Complex Situations
  • Maintain Vehicle Safety between Major Inspections
  • Assure Safe and Effective Aircraft Control under Hazardous Conditions
  • Engine Icing Characterization and Simulation Capability
  • Airframe Icing Simulation and Engineering Tool Capability
  • Atmospheric Hazard Sensing and Mitigation Technology Capability
AvSP explores hardware and software systems that will operate in the NextGen, including examining key challenges associated with verifying and validating (V&V) that flight-critical systems will meet the extremely high levels of safety required for NextGen operations. The program seeks to provide increasing capabilities to predict and prevent safety issues, to monitor for safety issues in-flight and lessen their impact should they occur, to analyze and design safety issues out of complex system behaviors, and to constantly analyze designs and operational data for potential hazards. These technologies can be leveraged to support safety in other complex systems such as NASA long-duration missions in space science and exploration.

AvSP includes three research projects:
  • System-wide Safety Assurance Technologies (SSAT) Project: provides knowledge, concepts and methods to proactively manage increasing complexity in the design and operation of vehicles and air transportation systems, including advanced approaches to enable improved and cost-effective verification and validation of flight-critical systems. For questions about SSAT, contact Jessica Nowinski.
  • Vehicle Systems Safety Technologies (VSST) Project: provides knowledge, concepts and methods to avoid, detect, mitigate and recover from hazardous flight conditions, and to maintain vehicle airworthiness and health. For questions about VSST, contact Paul Krasa.
  • Atmospheric Environment Safety Technologies (AEST) Project: investigates sources of risk and provides technology needed to help ensure safe flight in and around atmospheric hazards. For questions about AEST, contact Renato Colantonio.

Aviation Safety in the News
+ Playing with Lightning in the Name of Aircraft Safety
+ AirSTAR: For the Sake of Pilots and Passengers
+ NASA - Aviation Safety Analyst Flies with Blue Angels


Additional Program Information


+ Aviation Safety Program Fact Sheet [PDF] Updated

"Solving Aviation's Challenges Through NASA Innovation" KSC Briefing
As part of the "What's Next for NASA?" briefings leading up to the final shuttle launch, on July 6, 2011, Ed Waggoner, Integrated Systems Research program director, and John Cavolowsky, Airspace Systems program director, briefed the media on NASA's aeronautics research and how it will benefit the public.
(60 minutes)
+ View Video

DASHlink Online Community for Researchers
DASHlink is a web-based virtual community where scientists and engineers can post and share results, algorithms and ideas involving the latest research topics in health management technologies for aeronautics systems. DASHlink can be viewed by the public and is a resource for anyone interested in data mining, vehicle health systems, aeronautics and NASA.
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Aviation Safety Program and Project Plans (coming soon)



For questions regarding specific elements of the Aviation Safety Program, please contact: Doug Rohn, Program Director.



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Last Updated: February 19, 2014
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