Aviation Advocates Better Navigation for Shorter Flights and Fewer Emissions

Aviation Advocates Better Navigation for Shorter Flights and Fewer Emissions

International aviation trade groups today called for the widespread adoption of Performance-based Navigation (PBN) to trim trip length, fuel and greenhouse gas emissions.

The groups said PBN cuts fuel consumption and airport and airspace congestion by shifting from conventional ground-based navigation procedures and tools to satellite-based versions to make take-offs and landings more efficient and routes more direct.

The aviation industry expects its emissions to drop this year by some 8 percent, the majority of which because of an anticipated drop in capacity, Giovanni Bisignani, head of the International Air Transport Association, said in a speech this week at the Aviation and the Environment in Geneva. It is responsible for about 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

IATA expects global adoption of PBN could cut emissions by 13 million tonnes annually. Early tests are promising. For example, Qantas developed PBN processes for flights into Australia’s Brisbane airport. The 1,612 PBN approaches in the project’s first year  shaved 17,300 nautical miles from the normal distance flown and reduced emissions by 650,000 kg of carbon dioxide.

The evolving European SESAR and U.S. Next Generation (NextGen) Air Transportation System apply PBN to improve navigational efficiency. In the U.S., two PBN approaches at the Phoenix airport since October 2006 have reduced emissions by about 2,500 metric tons annually, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. PBN departures from Atlanta airports is generating about $34 million in annual fuel savings.

The aviation organizations signing the declaration (PDF) of support for PBN include: the International Civil Aviation Organization, International Air Transport Association, International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations, International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Association, Canso, Flight Safety Foundation, International Business Aviation Council, International Coordinating Council of Aerospace industries Associations, Airports Council Intnernational and International Federation of Helicopter Associations.

The move is one of several steps taken by a sector that will find itself part of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme in the program's next phase beginning in 2012. There have been several high-profile test flights on various biofuels over the last year, and during the summit, it was announced that as many as 100 European airports will let planes descend from cruising altitude to the runway in one glide to cut emissions up to 992 pounds of carbon dioxide per landing, the Association Press reported.

The industry this week also called for a global climate change treaty to avoid competitive distortions. For example, some have raised concern that including airlines in the EU ETS will lead to increased emissions from the sector as individual companies attempt to fly around EU airspace, AFP reported.

"Airplane" -- CC licensed by Flickr user inocuo.