De Neufville’s contributions to the aviation industry recognized by Transportation Research Board
Professor Richard de Neufville of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Engineering Systems Division will receive the Francis X. Mc Kelvey Award from the Transportation Research Board, a division of the National Research Council, at its annual meeting in January.
The Mc Kelvey Award recognizes individuals whose work has contributed to the betterment of the aviation industry. In this case, it honors de Neufville’s lifelong achievements in education, research and consulting in airport planning, design and management.
De Neufville is well known at MIT for teaching his students to incorporate flexibility into engineering design, rather than the more traditional approach of designing for an optimal forecast. “The forecast is always wrong,” has become a mantra of sorts for him. He was possibly the first to recognize and begin planning for the needs of low-cost airlines, which prefer small airports rather than large, expensive, lavishly designed airports.
“Richard has essentially ‘written the book’ on multi-airport systems,” said MIT Professor Amedeo Odoni, referring to the somewhat recent proliferation of multiple airports serving a single metropolitan region. “He began addressing multi-airport systems in the 1970s, when the subject was not on anyone else’s radar.” Witness Southwest Airline’s choice of Love Field over of DFW, and Nashua and Providence over Logan.
With Odoni, de Neufville has taught a graduate course on airport design and planning at MIT for more than 30 years, educating hundreds of students and supervising about 190 doctoral and master’s theses. Many of his former students now hold leadership roles in the aviation industry in the U.S. and abroad. He and Odoni have also educated more than a thousand senior executives through their short summer course on airport systems.
De Neufville is a sought-after international consultant, associated with major airport projects in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and Latin America, and known for his ability to predict changes in the industry before they occur.
“He has always been able to look far into the future and forewarn the aviation industry, especially its airports segment, about what is coming down the pike,” said Odoni. “He anticipated the enormous impact of low-cost carriers on air transportation and airports, even when these carriers represented only a small fragment of the airline industry. He has similarly been a visionary about low-cost carriers on an international scale; he foretold the impact of those airlines in Asia at a time when practically no low-cost carriers operated in Asia.”
De Neufville is author or co-author of four textbooks in airport systems design and management and co-editor of a book on systems design, all of which extend his educational reach far beyond MIT. He founded the MIT Technology and Policy Program (TPP) in 1976, a program designed to encourage responsible leadership in technology development. TPP has now been emulated widely at universities around the globe.
His work has been recognized with a Guggenheim Fellowship, the NATO Systems Science Prize, the MIT Sizer Award for significant contribution to education, the Martore and MIT Effective Teaching Awards, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Award for Excellence in Teaching. The French government made him a Chevalier des Palmes Académiques, and the Delft University of Technology recognized him with an honorary doctorate.
He earned the S.B., S.M. (1961) and Ph.D. (1965) in civil engineering from MIT. That same year he served as a White House Fellow for President Lyndon Johnson. He joined the MIT faculty in 1966.