Growing interest in employing continuous descent approach (CDA) procedures into airports could lead to a promising operational blueprint for sustainable aviation, says a US environmental chief.

Speaking in he UK at the Royal Aeronautical Society Aerospace 2006 event last week in London, US Federal Aviation Adminstration director Carl Burleson, who is responsible for environment and energy policies, said that the biggest environmental gains would come from improved operational procedures.

“There is no silver bullet on the horizon that I can see in terms of environmental technologies – nothing in terms of the significance of the bypass ratio engine, for example – but there are a number of incremental improvements coming,” he said. “One significant improvement that is real and is on the horizon is CDA.”

The FAA sponsored a study by UPS Airlines on how to implement more efficient air traffic control (ATC) procedures at the US freight carrier’s Louisville International airport hub in Kentucky, employing Massachusetts Institute of Technology to analyse the data.

Burleson said UPS found significant benefits during the two-week night-time trial. “A decrease in the noise level of 4-6dB is a huge reduction in terms of environmental improvement and it demonstrated comparable benefits in terms of NOx and fuel burn too.”

Burleson said meetings would be held in April with other airlines that have expressed interest on how to “best advance” CDA. The regulator has now assessed the procedure’s use at the USA’s top 100 airports.

Bill Glover, director of environmental performance at US aircraft manufacturer Boeing, said the UPS trial involved testing a variety of aircraft types.

“We found there were fewer delays, lower emissions and lower noise with a saving of up to 100s and 500lb [225kg] of fuel each operation,” said Glover, who added that a joint programme with Eurocontrol at Amsterdam Schiphol had completed three CDA trials this year.


Source: Flight International