Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ocean Tailored Approaches: Quiet landings

From time to time I come across news articles about noise near airports, and about noise abatement programs of one sort or another. Usually those articles are pretty dry stuff. Yawn.

But a recent article on the Airport Business website caught my attention. In the first place, it had a very catchy opening. I quote:
Imagine a 400,000-pound, wide-bodied Boeing 777 gliding over the Peninsula into San Francisco International Airport.

On a recent overnight flight from Honolulu, United Airlines Flight 76 did just that, sailing overhead from the coast to the Dumbarton Bridge at idle thrust using mostly gravity, not mechanical brakes, to cut speed for landing.

For everyone snug in their beds in Woodside, Portola Valley and Atherton, it meant no noise complaints that August morning.

For researchers at SFO, NASA Ames Research Center, Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration, it means the wave of the future in air traffic control: an aircraft descent pattern generated by computer and flown on autopilot. Researchers say the technology is cleaner, quieter and more fuel efficient than traditional manual landings.
So I read on...

The article is about a test program called Ocean Tailored Approaches that uses computer software to determine the smoothest landing path -- 'smooth' meaning the one that allows the aircraft to "descend with minimal engine thrust and more glide."
Commercial airliners currently fly autopilot at cruising altitude and have auto-landing features. But the vast majority of flights are landed manually by pilots and controllers in heavy traffic to avoid collisions. With tailored approaches, the software determines the path of all planes simultaneously to keep them from colliding, while minimizing the amount of braking and leveling off they normally do to land safely in heavy traffic.
The article says that, in the initial tests, both the pilots and the controllers liked the system.

Another benefit: the method actually saves fuel, too.

More tests of this system are scheduled to begin soon. Read the whole article about Oceanic Tailored Approaches here: Technology Helps Create Quiet Landing - Airport Business

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