New airline flight procedures will make everybody happy, almost

Airlines hear passenger complaints loud and clear. Travelers want flights to be on time, get from one point to another quickly and have fewer delays. Airlines also hear stakeholders who want a profit, so they try to fly full planes and reduce costs to make that happen. All the while, those concerned with the environment want carbon emissions reduced, which can happen simply by not using as much fuel. New navigation procedures being rolled out right now may very well answer all of these calls.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Delta Air Lines, and US Airways are rolling out Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) procedures right now as part of a flight procedures modernization project in the Atlanta (ATL) and Charlotte (CLT) airport areas.

When fully implemented, the program will create separate high-altitude flight tracks, allowing aircraft to climb and descend without leveling off. Shortening flight tracks by making them more direct will save time and fuel, helping to satisfy both travelers’ and environmentalists’ concerns.

“The end result for travelers will be fewer delays, quicker flights and an even safer, greener flying experience,” acting Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta said in a Flightglobal article.

Once the PBN plans are in place, the FAA estimates that airlines will be able to cut 1.2 million nautical miles per year from their routes in and out of Atlanta alone. Those distance cuts cascade down the line, saving 2.9 gallons of fuel annually and reducing carbon emissions by 35,000 tons.

The down side? That might be 1.2 million frequent flyer miles someone does not get.

[Flickr photo by Andrei Dimofte]