In our last feature, we highlighted the programs from EUROCONTOL to achieve the goal of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. Now we take a look at the FAA programs. Similar to the activities of EUROCONTROL, the FAA has issued its Aviation Climate Action Plan in the later part of 2021. 

Within this plan there are key steps highlighted to address the following topics:

  • Development of new, more efficient aircraft and engine technologies
  • Improvements in aircraft operations throughout the National Airspace System (NAS)
  • Use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF)
  • Plans to introduce the use of electric and hydrogen powered aircraft for short-haul routes
  • Introduction of efficiency improvements in airport operations
  • International initiatives such as the airplane CO2 standard and the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA)
  • Support for climate science research.

Some programs are already underway and achieving first results. In partnership with NASA, the 'Rolling to the Runway' program was trialed at two airports. The goal of this program is the use better forecasting of air traffic in the air and on the ground to reduce delays, fuel usage and CO2 emissions. Air Traffic Management personnel can align with these forecasts to allow for planes to leave the gate and roll directly to takeoff and then join high altitude traffic with smaller buffers between the aircraft.  The results of this one-year trial were impressive. They achieved savings of 275,000 gallons of jet fuel, 916 hours of flight time and 2,920 tonnes of CO2.  As a result, this program will be rolled out to 27 hub airports in the US with a projected annual savings of 75,000 tonnes of CO2.

A second program of note, is the Optimization Profile Descent (OPD). In a traditional descent, planes descend as if they were walking down a flight of stairs with interaction with ATC at each step before going further. With OPD, the descent is a gradual downward process which reduces fuel usage, emissions and the number of ATC interactions required along the way. Additionally, this is a more comfortable descent for passengers.

The report has much information to share and there are only a few highlights here. It’s worth checking out in its entirety to learn more.