Pioneering Environmental Technologies
Efficient Air Transportation Systems
Photo: FAA photo
Modernizing the global air traffic control system presents the world with its greatest short-term opportunity to improve aviation's environmental performance. The International Air Transport Association estimates that air traffic management solutions can improve fuel efficiency by up to 12 percent with a corresponding reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Other authorities estimate even greater improvements could result from modernizing the global air traffic system.
Boeing is a leading architect of this transformation. We are collaborating with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, international aviation authorities, airlines, air navigation service providers, aerospace and equipment manufacturers, and nongovernmental organizations to modernize the system. Although still relatively early in the transition, the new technologies and concepts on which a modern air traffic management system will rely have been defined and validated.
A modern system will rely on satellite-based navigation that takes advantage of the sophistication of airplane flight management systems and other advanced technologies. These improvements allow planes to fly more direct, use airspace more efficiently, minimize delays and employ more precise navigation capabilities.
One example of the type of improvements that could be made is the Boeing Tailored Arrivals concept, in which jetliners descend continuously to the runway instead of repeatedly stepping down to lower altitudes and then maneuvering in the airport vicinity at higher thrust settings before landing. Operational flight trials have shown this advanced arrival technique shortens flight durations and saves up to 500 gallons (1,893 liters) of fuel per flight. Each gallon of fuel saved reduces CO2 emissions by 21 pounds (or each liter of fuel saved reduces CO2 emissions by approximately 2.5 kilograms).
In May 2010, the FAA awarded a Boeing-led team a major research-and-development support contract for the Next-Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). Working with a comprehensive industry team, this work will move concepts to solutions that can be implemented in the near term. Boeing also is closely involved in the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) Joint Undertaking as an association member, supporting a number of work packages.
The transition to modernizing the global air traffic management system is scheduled to be completed around the year 2025, with the FAA's NextGen and SESAR programs leading the way. In the meantime, phased implementations of component technologies and flight procedures are already resulting in significant CO2 reductions around the world.
Optimizing flight operations is another way Boeing is helping airlines conserve fuel and reduce carbon emissions. This includes updating the onboard flight management computer with an intelligent selection of the most current and accurate wind information, and continuously monitoring each flight for optimal flight paths. Boeing InFlight Optimization Services is a suite of applications that automate these processes, offering flight crews opportunities to make adjustments after departure to save fuel and improve operational performance.