The Mason Spirit: The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of George Mason University

SEOR's Air Transportation Lab Tapped to Join FAA Center of Excellence

By Robin Herron

At the invitation of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Center of Excellence program, George Mason has become a member of one of the FAA's five national research centers. Through the Systems Engineering and Operations Research Department (SEOR) Air Transportation Lab headed by George Donohue, the university joins an elite group of academic institutions that focus on research and development critical to the FAA's mission and long-term vision.

Together with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Maryland; and Virginia Tech, George Mason will participate in activities of the National Center for Excellence in Aviation Operations Research (NEXTOR), which was established in 1996. Technology areas covered by NEXTOR include air traffic management and control; safety data analysis; communications, data collection and distribution; human factors; system performance and assessment measures; and aviation economics.

George Mason's Air Transportation Laboratory researches technologies associated with air traffic management and safety. The lab also collaborates with other researchers within the university, such as Deborah Boehm-Davis, Psychology, for expertise in human factors, and members of the Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, for expertise in economics.

Donohue, who was the FAA's associate administrator for research and acquisitions in the 1990s, says the university's collaboration with NEXTOR actually began two years ago, when the university funded and cohosted a conference with the Center of Excellence in General Aviation at Wye River that examined how auction theory might improve capacity and safety of the airspace, a new area of research for both George Mason and the FAA.

The relationship will bring many benefits to SEOR's graduate students, who will be able to participate in the center's research activities, have access to research data, and attend NEXTOR meetings and conferences, allowing them to network with students and faculty from other institutions as well as aviation industry and government representatives. "They'll have access to employment opportunities throughout the air transportation industry," Donohue points out.