Dec. 21 - With one of the busiest holiday travel seasons of the year about to begin, air traffic control procedures are set to receive a 21st century face lift. Aircraft industry giant Boeing is in the final stages of testing out a new system that gives airplanes tailor-made landing paths, a technology they say will decrease airlines delays and cut harmful fuel emissions significantly. Jane Ross reports.
Almost 90,000 flights a day are in the skies above the United States. According Boeing, the number of aircraft flying will double in the next 15-20 years, leading to more congestion at airports and increased carbon dioxide emissions from burning jet fuel. Boeing's solution is an air traffic management concept called Tailored Arrivals, which engineer Rob Mead says will land aircraft more efficiently. SOUNDBITE: Boeing Lead Engineer for Tailored Arrivals, Rob Mead, saying (English) : "We allow dynamic generation of arrival paths into busy airports and that allows us to reduce emissions, reduce noise and make for a cheaper ride for our airline customers and the passengers on board." Under the system, aircrews receive arrival path guidance matched to their specific flight by taking into consideration aircraft performance, air traffic, airspace and weather. Mead says conventional landing procedures burn needless amounts of fuel. SOUNDBITE: Boeing Lead Engineer for Tailored Arrivals, Rob Mead, saying (English) : "The conventional approach will come down and fly, level off and then descend a little bit more and level off. A lot of vectoring around and things like that. And it burns an awful lot more fuel, creates emissions and creates noise and is less predictable for the air nav service providers. And we smooth that out to make it a nice gradual descent. It's smoother for the passengers in the back; you don't feel the engines coming up and hear the noise of speed breaks coming on and things like that." International aviation produces about two percent of greenhouse gas emissions and is under increasing pressure to curb its carbon pollution. Between 2007 and 2009, Boeing says tests of its system saved six airlines 3.3 million pounds of fuel and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 10.4 million pounds.