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The Tailored Arrivals advanced air traffic management concept can help arriving aircraft much more efficiently through terminal airspace.
To learn how the Tailored Arrivals concept works, watch the video.

New era in air traffic control arrives

This time appears to be the right time for Tailored Arrivals, the Boeing advanced air traffic management concept that's aimed at moving arriving aircraft much more efficiently through terminal airspace.

After six years of operational trials in Australia, the Netherlands and in the United States that have shown that Tailored Arrivals can significantly reduce fuel burn, carbon dioxide emissions and noise, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has decided to officially implement what is termed Initial Tailored Arrivals at coastal U.S. airports starting in February or March 2011. The agency is working now to complete the necessary paperwork by September.

"This is really exciting."

"This is really exciting," said Rob Mead, Boeing Research & Technology chief architect for Advanced Arrivals. "Tailored Arrivals is really a paradigm shift, because you move away from the traditional published arrival routes to an environment in which you can dynamically create routes using data link clearances. The FAA quite rightly has taken a lot of pride in the idea that this really is an early NextGen (Next-Generation Air Transportation System) capability that provides an immediate benefit."

Boeing  Research & Technology Tailored Arrivals team members check out the flight  deck of the Boeing 747-400 flight simulator.

Boeing Photo:Paul Pinner

Boeing Research & Technology Tailored Arrivals team members check out the flight deck of the Boeing 747-400 flight simulator. From left are Christie Maldonado, BR&T engineering leader, Tailored Arrivals implementation at Miami International Airport; Rob Mead, BR&T chief architect for Advanced Arrivals; Greg Saccone, BR&T engineering leader, Tailored Arrivals data collection; and Suzanne Meador, BR&T engineering leader, Tailored Arrivals trials at Los Angeles International Airport.

Contributing to the FAA's decision are updated results of Initial Tailored Arrivals operational trials at San Francisco International Airport that have been going on since December 2007. Through the end of 2009, Tailored Arrivals there saved six airlines All Nippon Airways, Air New Zealand, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, and United Airlines 3.3 million pounds of fuel and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 10.4 million pounds. (Cathay Pacific will join the San Francisco trials in January.)

Fuel savings per flight at San Francisco ranged from 500 to 2,800 pounds, depending on the type of aircraft and whether or not it received a full Tailored Arrival (a continuous, near-idle descent to landing) or a partial Tailored Arrival (when the continuous descent was terminated in the latter part of the descent because of weather or heavy traffic).

In addition to San Francisco, operational trials of Tailored Arrivals are in progress at Miami International Airport (with Air France, American Airlines and Lufthansa) and at Los Angeles International Airport (with Qantas, Air New Zealand, Air France and United). Through May of this year, 10 airlines had completed more than 3,500 Tailored Arrivals at San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.

The FAA's initial implementation of Tailored Arrivals will include these airports as well as other airports based on potential benefits. Potential sites include Honolulu, Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, Ore., San Diego and East Coast sites to be determined later.

A lot has been learned from Tailored Arrivals trials, especially in San Francisco, Mead said. "We've shown that you can uplink a clearance to the aircraft from the ground that covers an arrival from current position to the runway," he said. "And we've shown that air traffic control can coordinate these clearances across multiple airspaces without the clearances having to be repeated each time an aircraft comes across the next center. In this way, we can utilize modern aircraft avionics to achieve maximum efficiency for the airlines and maximum predictability for the air traffic control facilities."

The Tailored Arrivals concept "takes advantage of technologies that are available today and uses them to provide measurable environmental and economic benefits to airlines and the communities that surround airports," Mead said.