Virgin America nears completion of CDA proof of concept

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Virgin America has been using simulator time to demonstrate fuel-saving arrival procedures at San Francisco International airport as the carrier presses regulators to approve their usage of the procedures at west coat airports in its network.

"[We] will be done with our proof of concept work in July. At that point, we will present our data to FAA," a Virgin America spokeswoman tells ATI.

The carrier would like to conduct trials of continuous descent approaches (CDA) as part of Required Navigation Performance (RNP) operations on San Francisco's Big Sur arrival as Virgin America's Airbus fleet is already equipped to use RNP.

San Francisco-based Virgin America is also interested in using the procedures at Los Angeles International and Seattle-Tacoma International airports as these facilities are less hamstrung than eastern seaboard airports, which have "a lot more complex airspace issues", the operator's senior vice president of legal, government affairs and sustainability Dave Pflieger previously told ATI.

CDA is one form of a broader set of tailored arrivals that allow aircraft to use existing flight management computer technology-area navigation (RNAV)/GPS)- to cut fuel burn, noise and emissions while improving traffic predictability for air traffic service providers. RNP enables aircraft to fly along a precise, pre-defined 3-d path tailored to reduce delays, fuel burn and emissions.

"We could do RNP approaches tomorrow," Pflieger says but usage is dependent on several factors including Air Traffic Control (ATC) approval.