American plans precision altitude flight on NextGen demo

Washington DC
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American Airlines plans to fly a more precise altitude on an 11 June flight as part of the launch of testing to prove efficiencies of aircraft equipped with avionics to support next generation (NextGen) air traffic control modernization.

The flight operated by American from Charles De Gaulle to Miami is designed to showcase route optimization as the carrier plans to operate within a special envelope clear of other aircraft.

On the flight American plans to use single engine taxi on departure and arrival, continuous climb out and descent, optimised routing and a tailored arrival.

For the optimised routing over water American will fly a more precise altitude of 32,400ft, for example, rather than being confined to a normal altitude of 32,000ft or 33,000ft, says American Boeing 777/737 programme manager Brian Will.

Once the weight burns down the Boeing 767 can climb another 1,000-2,000ft. But instead of using an increase in engine power for that climb, the 767 climbs in 100-200ft increments without a push in power, which reduces fuel burn and carbon emissions, Will explains.

The plan for the tailored arrival into Miami allows for an additional 80 miles at cruise altitude before using a continuous descent with idle thrust prior to throttling up approximately five miles from landing, which again saves fuel and cuts carbon emissions.

American is spending about $2.2 million per aircraft for its future air navigation system (fans) upgrade that includes a global positioning update to the flight management system and changes to the flight management computer that allow for the automatic downlink of an aircraft's position through controller pilot datalink communication. Fourteen of the carrier's 767s have been upgraded with the system.

In addition to the demonstration flight, American is also conducting two months of testing during June and July on its 777s used on flights from London Heathrow to Miami mainly focusing on the oceanic optimisation and tailored arrivals. The carrier also plans to add 777-operated flights from Madrid to Miami to the testing later this month.