Pioneering Environmental Technologies
Efficient Air Transportation Systems
Photo: Air Traffic Control of the Netherlands (LVNL)
Air traffic management improvements provide the greatest short-term opportunities to improve the environmental and fuel-efficiency performance of the transportation system.
Updating the world's aging air traffic control systems, which are based on 1950s-era technology, would reduce the carbon footprint of commercial travel by 12 percent, according to studies by the International Air Transport Association. Cutting the length of the average commercial flight by 1 minute would eliminate 4.8 million tons of CO2 emissions annually.
One advanced procedure developed by Boeing, known as Tailored Arrivals, allows flight controllers, supported by ground automation, to tailor flight paths. This reduces fuel consumption and emissions. This procedure uses integrated data link technologies, as well as automation already installed on the airplane, to produce low-power, continuous-descent approaches to runways. More efficient landings mean airplanes will spend less time circling airports in holding patterns during congested periods.
Boeing researchers have demonstrated this new technique at major international airports in Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Miami, San Francisco and Sydney. At San Francisco International Airport, four airlines participated in these tests. Combined, the four carriers reduced fuel consumption by 1.1 million pounds (495,000 kilograms) and lowered CO2 emissions by nearly 3.6 million pounds (nearly 1.6 million kilograms) over a one-year period. Similar results were generated at all airports involved in this research.