Date of Award

Summer 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Ghaith Rabadi

Committee Member

Resit Unal

Committee Member

Mecit Cetin


As air traffic continues to increase, air traffic flow management is becoming more challenging to effectively and efficiently utilize airport capacity without compromising safety, environmental and economic requirements. Since runways are often the primary limiting factor in airport capacity, runway operations scheduling emerge as an important problem to be solved to alleviate flight delays and air traffic congestion while reducing unnecessary fuel consumption and negative environmental impacts. However, even a moderately sized real-life runway operations scheduling problem tends to be too complex to be solved by analytical methods, where all mathematical models for this problem belong to the complexity class of NP-Hard in a strong sense due to combinatorial nature of the problem. Therefore, it is only possible to solve practical runway operations scheduling problem by making a large number of simplifications and assumptions in a deterministic context. As a result, most analytical models proposed in the literature suffer from too much abstraction, avoid uncertainties and, in turn, have little applicability in practice. On the other hand, simulation-based methods have the capability to characterize complex and stochastic real-life runway operations in detail, and to cope with several constraints and stakeholders’ preferences, which are commonly considered as important factors in practice.

This dissertation proposes a simulation-based optimization (SbO) approach for multi-objective runway operations scheduling problem. The SbO approach utilizes a discrete-event simulation model for accounting for uncertain conditions, and an optimization component for finding the best known Pareto set of solutions. This approach explicitly considers uncertainty to decrease the real operational cost of the runway operations as well as fairness among aircraft as part of the optimization process. Due to the problem’s large, complex and unstructured search space, a hybrid Tabu/Scatter Search algorithm is developed to find solutions by using an elitist strategy to preserve non-dominated solutions, a dynamic update mechanism to produce high-quality solutions and a rebuilding strategy to promote solution diversity. The proposed algorithm is applied to bi-objective (i.e., maximizing runway utilization and fairness) runway operations schedule optimization as the optimization component of the SbO framework, where the developed simulation model acts as an external function evaluator. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first SbO approach that explicitly considers uncertainties in the development of schedules for runway operations as well as considers fairness as a secondary objective.

In addition, computational experiments are conducted using real-life datasets for a major US airport to demonstrate that the proposed approach is effective and computationally tractable in a practical sense. In the experimental design, statistical design of experiments method is employed to analyze the impacts of parameters on the simulation as well as on the optimization component’s performance, and to identify the appropriate parameter levels. The results show that the implementation of the proposed SbO approach provides operational benefits when compared to First-Come-First-Served (FCFS) and deterministic approaches without compromising schedule fairness. It is also shown that proposed algorithm is capable of generating a set of solutions that represent the inherent trade-offs between the objectives that are considered. The proposed decision-making algorithm might be used as part of decision support tools to aid air traffic controllers in solving the real-life runway operations scheduling problem.