Run-way Functions: Predict Reconfigurations at US Airports (Open Arena)

START HERE! Air traffic managers monitor the skies and respond by changing the airport configuration. Tools that give flight operators early warning for upcoming changes can help streamline air travel and reduce delays. Use real-time data to predict future airport … #civic

apr 2022
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Coordinating our nation’s airways is the role of the National Airspace System (NAS). The NAS is arguably the most complex transportation system in the world. Operational changes can save or cost airlines, taxpayers, consumers, and the economy at large thousands to millions of dollars on a regular basis. It is critical that decisions to change procedures are done with as much lead time and certainty as possible. The NAS is investing in new ways to bring vast amounts of data together with state-of-the-art machine learning to improve air travel for everyone.

An important part of this equation is airport configuration, the combination of runways used for arrivals and departures and the flow direction on those runways. For example, one configuration may use a set of runways in a north-to-south flow (or just "south flow") while another uses south-to-north flow ("north flow"). Air traffic officials may change an airport configuration depending on weather, traffic, or other inputs.


Sample of a basic airport configuration, depicting a set of runways configured in a north flow for arrivals and departures.

These changes can result in delays to flights, which may have to alter their flight paths well ahead of reaching the airport to get into the correct alignment or enter holding patterns in the air as the flows are altered. The decisions to change the airport configuration are driven by data and observations, meaning it is possible to predict these changes in advance and give flight operators time to adjust schedules in order to reduce delays and wasted fuel.


The goal of this challenge is to automatically predict airport configuration changes from real-time data sources including air traffic and weather. Better algorithms for predicting future airport configurations can support critical decisions, reduce costs, conserve energy, and mitigate delays across the national airspace network.

How to compete

  1. Click the “Compete” button in the sidebar to enroll in the competition.
  2. Get familiar with the problem through the problem description. You might also want to reference some of the additional resources from the about page.
  3. Download the data from the data tab.
  4. Create and train your own model. The benchmark blog post is a good place to start.
  5. Use your model to generate predictions that match the submission format.
  6. Click “Submissions” in the sidebar, then “Make new submission”. You’re in!


All eligible participants are invited to register to enter the challenge and participate in the Open Arena.

For this challenge, cash prizes are restricted to Official Representatives (individual participants or team leads, in the case of a group project) who at the time of entry are:

  • age 18 or older, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the United States or its territories, and
  • are affiliated with an accredited U.S. university either as an enrolled student or faculty member. Proof of enrollment or employment is required to demonstrate university affiliation.

Federal employees acting within the scope of their employment and federally-funded researchers acting within the scope of their funding are not eligible to win a prize in this challenge.

For complete rules on eligibility and prizes see the Competition Rules.

Contest arenas

This challenge features two competition arenas which provide different access levels and capabilities.

The Open Arena is the first step in the competition process. Here all participants can enter the outputs of their solutions to see how they fare against others on the open leaderboard.

The Open Arena:

  • Is available to all registered participants
  • Provides access the public ground truth data
  • Accepts submissions of CSV files with predictions for the open validation set
  • Displays live results from the best-scoring submissions on the open leaderboard

The Prescreened Arena is a closed arena where prize-eligible participants can submit executable code to generate predictions. A successful submission to the Prescreened Arena is required in order for us to run your solution on the final evaluation set, collected after submissions close. Your solution's score on the final evaluation set will determine prize rankings.

The Prescreened Arena:

  • Is available to approved university-affiliated participants eligible for prizes
  • Provides access the public ground truth data
  • Accepts submissions of trained models and executable code to run in the cloud in order to generate predictions
  • Displays live testing results on the prescreened leaderboard

Note that only participants in the Prescreened Arena will be eligible to compete for the $40,000 in final scoring prizes. For more information on staging, submissions, and scoring check out the Problem Description.

Competition End Date:

April 25, 2022, 11:59 p.m. UTC

Place Prize Amount
1st $20,000
2nd $10,000
3rd $6,000
4th $4,000

This challenge is in collaboration with NASA.

Image courtesy of Flickr user kuhnmi