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Mathematically Modeling Aircraft Fuel Consumption

Co Authors:

Kevin Pyatt
College of Computer & Information Sciences
Regis University

Jacqueline Coomes
Department of Mathematics
Eastern Washington University


The problem studied in this case deals with the identification of potential ways to lower fuel consumption in a 737 aircraft. Students are presented with actual flight data, such as fuel weights, passenger loads, fuel consumption, trip mileage, and trip phases. Students must simplify the problem and model a typical flight. Based on their analysis and assumptions, students then prepare and defend their recommended approaches for reducing fuel consumption for the aircraft. Students role-play throughout the case as flight engineers working for an engineering firm that has been tasked to prepare the analysis. The results of the analysis are presented to a panel that evaluates the appropriateness and reasonableness of the team's recommendations. One challenging aspect of this case is the amount of flight data available. Students must sift through the data and decide which are relevant and which are extraneous to the problem at hand. Originally designed for use with secondary mathematics teacher candidates in a problem solving course, the mathematics is accessible to most high school pre-calculus and physics students. The case would be a good supplement to a high school or college pre-calculus course that includes finding regression equations.

  • Formulate questions and conjectures, and create and carry out plans and sub goals to reach a conclusion.
  • Use data to create functions and determine how well the functions fit the data.
  • Interpret and explain coefficients of determination.
  • Interpret the meanings of the parameters of functions in specific situations.
  • Critique, present, and defend models.
Keywords: Modeling; statistical analyses; regression; correlation; power analysis; fuel consumption; fuel use
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division, Faculty development
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues), Dilemma/Decision, Discussion, Role-Play, Student Presentations
Language: English
Subject Headings: Mathematics   Statistics   Science Education   Teacher Education  
Date Posted: 8/6/2012
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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