Airlines now have the option to glide down from cruising altitude to final approach for flights to Orlando, Kansas City, Omaha, Reno, and six South Florida airports, saving millions of gallons of fuel and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The new Optimized Profile Descents (OPDs) safely eliminate the need for the fuel-consuming stair-step procedure. Under traditional procedures, aircraft repeatedly level off and power up the engines. This burns more fuel and requires air traffic controllers to issue instructions at each step. With optimized descents, aircraft descend from cruising altitude to the runway in a smooth, continuous path with the engines at near idle.
With these new descents in place, the FAA estimates that the industry will save more than 90,000 gallons of fuel on average and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 27,000 tons annually. This change is equivalent to fuel used by 62 Boeing 737 flights between New York and Cleveland.
The 11 airports brings the total number of airports with the procedures to 64. Since 2014, the FAA also has developed OPD procedures at airports in Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus, Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix, Portland, Northern California, Southern California, Seattle, Tampa, Washington, D.C., and others.
In its Aviation Climate Action Plan, the United States set a goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. aviation sector by 2050. To achieve it, the FAA:
- Has awarded $100 million to research and scale fuel-saving technologies and noise reductions
- Has awarded $327 million to electrify airport gate equipment and vehicles
- Has invested $35 million for universities to help build sustainable aviation fuel supply chains
- Has completed research and testing on reducing fuel burn and taxi time