The New York Times has joined this month’s parade of general-interest news outlets looking at how fuel efficiency is bringing changes to the airline business. This article doesn’t mention ADS-B, RNAV, or RNP, but it does mention continuous-descent arrivals. It also takes a look at efficiency-improving products like winglets and new technologies in engine design.
The following excerpt hints at NextGen and equipage issues, but doesn’t really explain either topic:
On a recent trial flight, Southwest Airlines used satellite navigation and continuous descent approaches on a round trip between Dallas and Houston and determined it could reduce fuel consumption by 6 percent.
“If we were able to reduce and get 6 percent savings across all our flights, that would equal 90 million gallons a year in fuel reduction and a reduction in carbon emissions of 1.9 billion pounds,” said Jeff Martin, Southwest’s senior director of flight operations.
Nancy Young, vice president of environmental affairs for the Air Transport Association, said that changing from a radar-based system to a satellite-based one was “a big, big thing.”
But incorporating the new flights into an older traffic infrastructure takes time. Air traffic control centers and airlines are in transition, with some updating equipment faster than others. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, about 80 percent of American airliners have the necessary devices.
Brian Will, program manager for American Airlines and a pilot, said the agency needed to do more to reward companies that make an investment in new technology. Air traffic control “is compelled to maintain a system that will accommodate everybody,” he said. “In my opinion, this is a mistake.”
The aviation authority is considering ways to expedite satellite-guided planes through the system. “Clearly there is a policy that we’re looking at right now to try and improve our delivery of services to those who are better equipped,” said Carl E. Burleson, the F.A.A.’s deputy acting administrator for policy planning and the environment.