Boeing’s ATM Concept Effectively Reduces Fuel and Emissions

Boeing recently cooperated with industry partners and government to set in motion a trial version of the innovative Air Traffic Management (ATM) concept at San Francisco International Airport with a high level of success. The tryout achieved a significant reduction in both carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption.

From 4 December 2007 to 23 March 2008 San Francisco International Airport served as a testing ground for the ATM concept known as ‘Tailored Arrivals‘. During the course of the test United Airlines, Japan Airlines and Air New Zealand completed 57 flights to the airport successfully using a continuous descent instead of the currently employed series of level segments. The result? A Shocking 500 000 pound reduction in total carbon emissions. The concept seems so simple that it is hard to believe that it could result in such a massive reduction. It also seems hard to believe that it was not investigated sooner, since it saved on fuel consumption in some aircraft by as much as 39 percent.

Boeing vice president Kevin Brown noted that “concepts like Tailored Arrivals potentially can be deployed quickly and at relatively low cost because the technology is in place today.” This makes it a very viable option that can ultimately result in massive savings for the industry and massive reductions in emissions for the environment. Brown also said that as the system is used by more and more airlines, “we move closer toward realizing the benefits expected from the Next-Generation Air Transport System (NextGen).” The Tailored Arrivals system works by putting air-to-ground data link technology to good use, making it possible for an aircraft to descent to an airport with minimal direct air traffic control (ATC) intervention. NASA’s En-route Descent Adviser (EDA) computes the most fuel-efficient course of descent and this information is then supplied to flight crews and air traffic controllers via the FAA’s Ocean 21 system.

With the impressive success enjoyed at the San Francisco International Airport, Boeing, NASA and the FAA are planning to continue their partnership when they use the Tailored Arrivals procedures at Miami International Airport later this year. In doing so, they hope to accelerate the practical implementation of this system in the industry. On top of saving fuel and cutting emissions, the system also helps to reduce noise pollution.