Southwest Airlines has rolled out a new set of guidelines for flight paths and landings for its aircraft at 11 airports that has resulted in fuel savings of five to 15 percent per flight. The new guidelines called Required Navigation Performance (RNP) could be introduced to all airports and airlines in the coming years.
The RNP procedures change flight patterns in two major ways: they allow aircraft to track much tighter flight paths than current traffic control systems require and they also call for a continuous glide down to landing opposed to the punctuated, step-down approach mainly used. These seemingly small tweaks have added up to major fuel savings -- already saving Southwest $11 million in fuel costs a year just at the initial 11 airports and could save up to $60 million a year when extended to all of its airports.
In an industry that accounts for two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, those fuel savings will also amount to a nice reduction in emissions.
GE Aviation has been testing RNP technology for airplanes and Boeing has outfitted 345 of its 737-700s with the technology supporting those flight patterns. The Federal Aviation Administration is hoping to get RNP procedures, as well as other efficiency measures, into all of the country's airports soon, although the upgrade and requisite training will likely cost $6 billion - $7 billion.
written by g2environmental, January 15, 2011
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