Exclusive: FAA’s bid to reduce airplane emissions

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The FAA is set to expand its implementation of the Sustainable Approach to more airports this year to save fuel and greenhouse gas emissions.

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state of play: The regulatory agency has also stipulated emissions savings from its efforts in 2021.

Why this matters: Aviation accounts for 11% of US transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions and about 3% of global emissions and growth.

  • Airlines, flight controllers and regulators are working to reach net-zero emissions from domestic flight by 2050.

how it works: The FAA has rolled out 42 of what it calls “optimized profile descenders.” These differ from the traditional “stair-step” approach for airports, which involves leveling aircraft every several thousand feet on their way to the runway.

  • The continuous approach allows the pilots to keep the engines idling for the entire descent.
  • The FAA estimates that optimized descents at each airport save an average of 2 million gallons of aviation fuel and 40 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • “This is equivalent to eliminating the fuel and CO2 emissions of 1,300 Boeing 737 flights from Atlanta to Dallas,” the agency said in a statement.
  • Airports where these approaches were implemented last year include Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Tampa International Airport.

What are they saying: “These new efficient descent processes save fuel and dramatically reduce emissions, moving us closer to our goal of net-zero aviation emissions by 2050,” US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.

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