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Updated Air Traffic System Could Save 12.9M Gallons of Jet Fuel per Year

Airlines could save at least $65.6 million annually while cutting carbon emissions and flight times by implementing new flight paths at 46 mid-size airports across the U.S., according to a study, Highways in the Sky, released by GE Aviation.

According to the report, an updated air traffic management system operating to reduce delays, improve efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of flying would yield an annual cumulative savings at the 46 facilities amounting to 12.9 million gallons of jet fuel; 274.6 million pounds of CO2; 747 days of flight time; and $65.6 million in fuel savings (calculated at 2009 fuel costs), maintenance and crew costs.

The study focused on mid-sized U.S. airports that have not yet deployed satellite-based Required Navigation Performance (RNP) landing approaches. Facilities reviewed in the report include Albuquerque, New Mexico, Charleston, South Carolina; Austin, Texas; Portland Oregon; Sacramento, Calif.; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

RNP technology allows aircraft to fly precisely-defined trajectories without relying on older, ground-based radio-navigation signals. The satellite navigation and advanced technology aboard the aircraft allow the creation of shorter, more efficient flight paths. According to GE, the consistency of the new flight paths can reduce flight delays and costly air traffic congestion.

Aside from the aggravation to wait at the gate, the total cost of all U.S. air transportation delays in 2007 was more than $30 billion; this is according to a study, “Total Delay Impact Study, Revised Final Report,” by the National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research.

Such savings are significant and also the timing is important. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s annual aviation forecast predicts that domestic air travel will double in the next 20 years, reaching the 1-billion-passenger mark in the U.S. alone by 2021.

The global aviation industry is not regulated by the Kyoto Protocol. The industry is trying to keep its emissions reductions activities to a self-regulated, agreeable, but business-focused initiative.

GE Aviation-owned Naverus designs and deploys RPN systems.

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