Continuous Descents Cut Fuel, Emissions, Noise

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Both Boeing and the FAA have tested arrival procedures and both have found that continuous descents flown at a single busy airport can save the airlines millions of pounds of fuel and save the atmosphere millions of pounds of carbon dioxide. The FAA's testing at LAX shows that continuous descent approaches could save airlines flying into that airport 1 million gallons of fuel (and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 18 million pounds), each year. Boeing's trials, carried out at San Francisco International Airport over the course of a year, cut fuel consumption by 1.1 million pounds and carbon dioxide emissions by 3.6 million pounds. International aviation is cited as a contributor that accounts for roughly 2 percent of manmade greenhouse gas emissions, worldwide, and the European Union is expected to include aviation into its emission control scheme by 2012. Both Boeing and the FAA's programs are proactive in that regard while also addressing airlines' bottom lines.

The FAA first applied the method at LAX back in December 2007 when it converted one of the airport's eastern routes. Now, two other routes have been converted, allowing LAX to offer continuous descents to roughly half the aircraft that land there, according to the FAA. LAX has the most broadly employed implementation of the program. Under Boeing's tests, pilots received arrival path guidance that considered aircraft performance, air traffic, weather and airspace. Boeing's trials involved about 1,000 flights over the course of 12 months. The LAX trials have involved as many as 400 flights each day.