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FAA plan looks to clean up the skies

By Layer 8 on Wed, 06/20/07 - 3:51pm.

Look, it's a bird! It's a plane! Oh, OK, it's a plane.On top of its recently announced plan to reduce flight delays, Federal Aviation Administration officials today launched what they hope will be pan U.S. and European Union joint action plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft.

Specifically the group announced the Atlantic Interoperability Initiative to Reduce Emissions or AIRE - the first large-scale environmental plan aimed at uniting aviation players from both sides of the Atlantic.

AIRE will make it possible to speed up the application of new technologies and operational procedures which will have a direct impact in the short and medium term on greenhouse gas emissions, the officials said in a release.

Marion C. Blakey, an FAA administrator said the AIRE partnership represents a lot of work that the aviation community has been doing separately; but now we're doing it together. "This partnership will be used to develop operational procedures to reduce our environmental footprint. It will accelerate environmentally friendly procedures and standards. AIRE will capitalize on existing technology and best practices. And AIRE will help us achieve each of these with a systematic approach. Make no mistake about this the reach of AIRE is quite broad: Literally, the focus of AIRE is gate-to-gate. We want to take every opportunity to whittle away at a carbon footprint that's already low. Every place we can make a difference, we will."

A couple things the alliance will work on:

* Trajectory-based operations on the ground to minimize aircraft flight time. That means the jets will get from the gate to the runway as quickly and smoothly as possible. Imagine a town without the need for streetlights because all of the car movements were synchronized, Blakely said.

* Collaborative oceanic trajectory optimization, which promises major fuel reduction at cruise. Heading into the destination, we'll be using oceanic tailored arrivals, a low power, continuous descent approach that has planes gliding smoothly in to the runway with minimal power. That cuts fuel, noise and emissions. That could save as much as a ton of CO2 per flight.

* Field trials of these different elements on new routes between our countries later this year. On the U.S. side, we'll include projects like continuous descent approach at Atlanta with multiple airlines. We also will develop a coastal tailored arrivals program for flights into Miami.

Meanwhile the FAA Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, CAAFI, has two studies under way to develop a national roadmap on the viability of alternative fuels for aviation.

The first study looks at feasibility, costs, barriers and technical issues. It's going to answer the key questions that you need to get out of the way before taking big steps. The second study will take a look at the environmental benefits.

Without this kind of quantification, it's difficult to set meaningful goals with meaningful schedules. In addition, as part of the FAA's NextGen financing reform bill, we've asked for the authority to form a research consortium.

Its mission will be to accelerate the development and certification of new technologies that lower aviation's energy, emissions, and noise profile.

It will not only work on engines and airframe technology, but it also will seek to advance work on alternative fuels, Blakey said.

The FAA has been busy.

Last month it week expanded a program that it says will reduce flight delays during the peak summer season. The Airspace Flow Program gives airlines the option of either accepting delays for flights scheduled to fly through storms or flying longer routes to maneuver around them. The agency employed the program last year at seven locations in the Northeast. On bad weather days at major airports in the region, delays fell by 9 % compared to the year before. Cost savings for the airlines and the flying public from the program are estimated to be $100 million annually.

This summer the program will be used in 18 cities, adding locations in the South and Midwest.