FAA Implements More Efficient Descent Procedures to Reduce Fuel Burn and Emissions

Descent procedures the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented nationwide in 2021 will save millions of gallons of fuel and reduce CO2 and other emissions by hundreds of thousands tons. The 42 new Optimized Profile Descents (OPDs) allow aircraft to safely descend from cruising altitudes in the airspace of some of the nation’s largest airports instead of the fuel-consuming stairway procedure.

“These new efficient descent procedures both save fuel and significantly reduce emissions, bringing us closer to our goal of net zero aviation emissions by 2050,” said the US Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg.

For every set of downpipes used at an airport, the FAA estimates that an average of 2 million gallons of fuel is saved and 40 million pounds of emissions are reduced each year. This is equivalent to eliminating fuel and CO2 emissions from 1,300 Boeing 737 flights from Atlanta to Dallas.

“When we multiply the impact by thousands of flights, we realize real fuel savings and real environmental benefits,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.

In 2021, the FAA implemented OPDs for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, Lakehurst Maxfield Field in New Jersey, Dallas Love Field, Miami International Airport and North Las Vegas Airport. , Orlando International Airport, Port Columbus International Airport, Portland International Airport, Tampa International Airport and many mid-sized airports.

Watch a video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4vuJKCwOdw

Under traditional stair descent procedures, aircraft repeatedly level off and fire the engines. This consumes more fuel and forces air traffic controllers to issue instructions at every step. With optimized descents, aircraft descend from cruise altitude toward the runway in a smooth, continuous path with the engines set to near idle.

Since 2014, the FAA has also developed OPD procedures at airports in Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Northern California, Southern California, and Washington, D.C. More OPD procedures will be added in 2022.

The FAA is using an increasing number of new flight procedures that burn less fuel and reduce noise. These include NextGen initiatives such as Performance Based Navigation (PBN). These procedures bring more precision to routes and lead to a reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 greenhouse gas emissions.

In November, the United States released its first-ever comprehensive aviation climate action plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Earlier in 2021, the FAA announced more than $100 million in matching grants to increase aircraft efficiency, reduce aircraft noise and emissions, and develop and implement new software to reduce taxi delays. The White House also announced its Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge, a whole-of-government initiative designed to catalyze the production of at least three billion gallons per year by 2030.

Find more information about the FAA and its environmental efforts on its Sustainability Gateway page.

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