Next-generation satellite-based air navigation system to save on fuel costs

WASHINGTON -- The nation's Next Generation (NextGen) Air Transportation System, which seeks to base air traffic control on satellite-based navigation rather than ground-based radars, has the potential for substantial savings on fuel costs and aircraft emissions.

Sep 14th, 2008

WASHINGTON -- The nation's Next Generation (NextGen) Air Transportation System, which seeks to base air traffic control on satellite-based navigation rather than ground-based radars, has the potential for substantial savings on fuel costs and aircraft emissions.

At the core of the NextGen air transport system is automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast technology, better-known as ADS-B, a satellite-based technology that broadcasts aircraft identification, position and speed with once-per-second updates.

ADS-B technology in the NextGen air transportation system for the firs time will enable commercial aircraft flying under instrument rules to fly directly to their destinations, rather than jagged routes along so-called victor airways that use ground-based VHF omni-range (VOR) radio beacons to guide aircraft safely to their destinations.

Using satellite-based direct point-to-point navigation, rather than following established routes illuminated by radio beacons, has the potential to shorten virtually every commercial airline route, safe fuel and time, increase the amount of air traffic in the skies at any one time, and reduce aircraft engine emissions.

The ADS-B portion of the NextGen air transport system has been demonstrated in a non-radar environment in Alaska, and has resulted in a 40 percent drop in general aviation accidents, say officials of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Washington.

A partnership with the helicopter industry will bring ADS-B to the Gulf of Mexico in December 2009. United Parcel Service has outfitted a fleet of 300 aircraft with ADS-B for use at its Louisville hub, with similar services planned for Philadelphia. UPS cargo aircraft are having a 30 percent reduction in noise and a 34 percent decline in emissions for ADS-B-equipped aircraft, FAA officials say.

Relying on the NextGen air transportation system to make aviation more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly was the gist of congressional testimony Sept. 11 by Paul Kaminski of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) in Arlington, Va. Kaminski is AIA's representative to the NextGen Management Council

The FAA is modeling fuel burn and noise with aircraft operations, which will help quantify substantial energy and environment benefits that the NextGen program offers, Kaminski told the House Committee on Science and Technology.

"NextGen promises dramatic increases in efficiency and reduction in carbon emissions," Kaminski told Congress. "When you add this to capacity, safety and other gains, it is clear we can't afford to give NextGen anything less than full support." Kaminski is former under secretary of defense for acquisition and technology.

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