This program aims to make your journey smoother – and help the planet

seat tie Belt buckle and knowing that your flight is on its way to its destination: Nice. Getting stuck in a traffic jam and waiting for your flight to take off: it’s not that simple. Turns out, waiting isn’t kind to the planet either.

Flying in an airplane is already one of the most emissions-intensive things you can do. Globally, aviation has been produced Over 1 billion tons of carbon emissions in 2019, more than 2 percent of all human emissions — more than either Shipping or railways. Aircraft engines also emit nitrogen oxides, soot particles and water vapor, which also contribute to global warming.

Takeoff and landing is usually just a short part of the trip, but accounts for a quarter of its emissionsAccording to NASA. Unnecessary aircraft layovers during this process increase fuel use. It would be better for everyone – passengers included – if planes exited smoothly and entered airports.

That’s because aircraft engines are designed to run in the air, says Hamsa Balakrishnan, a professor of aviation and astronautics at MIT who studies airport operations. When planes wait at their gates, they rely on additional power systems to keep just the essentials running. But once the plane backs off, it starts running its engines and burning fuel. And inactivity at airports hurts local air quality, Balakrishnan says — people live and work more near airports than they do in the middle of the sky. It’s noisy too.

Now, the FAA and NASA have created a system to facilitate takeoffs and landings, eliminating unnecessary delays and emissions in the process. Real rocket scientists participated – The system arose from the work of NASA to help spaceships establish stable paths in space.

Today, most airports create a queue for takeoff, based on when the plane is pushed back from the gate. This can lead to tarmac traffic jams, and crowded corridors where planes lie idle while waiting to take off. Additionally, air traffic controllers don’t always have a great sense of how long it will take the plane to taxi and get into the air. In fact, while the FAA gets each airline’s schedule, controllers don’t know exactly when a flight will depart until it reaches a certain part of the ramp. They deal with unpredictability by building in buffers, and extra time here and there ensuring that the entire system runs unhindered. As a result, “there’s a lot of inefficiencies that are being built up,” says Balakrishnan, an MIT professor.

To passengers, the inefficiency feels like waiting on a plane that was supposed to land 30 minutes earlier, or strapped into an uncomfortable seat while waiting in line for planes to take off. For airlines, inefficiency feels like burning unnecessary fuel — and releasing unnecessary emissions into the air.

The new program is part of a two-decade effort to modernize the country’s air traffic control system. It includes 11 bits of real-time data from airlines — including when an aircraft actually left the gate, and when another plane hit the runway — to more accurately map aircraft movement in and out of the airport. It’s not that the information is that complicated or new. It’s that the players at the airport – the operators, air traffic control, the airlines – have a way to share it automatically, in real time, with fewer phone calls. In the end, the system must be killed paper advance strips which controllers use to manually track flights, creating an all-digital system that can, for example, remind controllers when a particular runway is closed.

The system can save a lot of fuel. After the FAA spent four years testing the new program with American Airlines at North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport, it concluded that reduced taxi times saved more than 275,000 gallons of fuel annually, the equivalent of 185 flights between New York and Chicago on board. airplane. Boeing 737. Carbon emissions are reduced by more than 2,900 tons per year, roughly the same amount as burning 15 railcars of coal. For passengers, the project reduced delays by about 40 minutes per day. For Charlotte Airport — which is among the world’s busiest, when you include commercial, cargo, military and private flights — that means “you can get more planes on the ground and park them,” says Healy Gentry, the airport’s director of aviation. “We are maximizing the use of the pavement we have.”

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