'Green' Flight Grabs Attention

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The FAA and American Airlines have wrapped themselves in the eco banner in selling the benefits of the NextGen airspace system. The agency and airline are promoting the environmental benefits of the system with the announcement that the latest technology and techniques will be used for a "green" flight from Paris to Miami on Thursday. But what it really comes down to is that the 767 will go GPS direct rather than following the airways and use gradual rather than stepped climbs and descents. In other words, it will operate like general aviation has for more than a decade. The flight has earned a remarkable amount of attention from the mainstream media.

The Miami Herald trumpeted the flight as a "Step Forward For Aviation" and newspapers all over the world picked up on the potential fuel savings. However, there were those who pointed out that there's nothing really new about this except that it's a regularly scheduled airliner doing it. "The event scheduled for this week with the American Airlines aircraft is simply a publicity stunt," the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said in a statement. "The flight will be using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology that we have been using for years." Miami was chosen as the destination because it's the first air traffic control facility in the U.S. to be outfitted with the NextGen gear.