A new system of navigation and traffic separation should be created to improve safety and efficiency.
The old VOR airways are obsolete, GPS systems allow aircraft to easily navigate from the departure airport directly to the destination. The old airways are still in use to maintain traffic separation. The fuel efficiency of airlines could also be improved by flying at a steadily increasing altitude in order to maximize efficiency as the plane gets lighter as it burns fuel. the problem of keeping separate thousands of aircraft all traveling at different headings and at constantly changing altitudes is beyond human capacity. We do now have computers that are up to the task. Automated systems that are linked to aircraft auto pilots could conceivably fly airlines on direct routes at optimum altitudes saving billions of gallons of jet fuel while improving safety.
What actions do you propose?
I propose that a new automated air traffic control system be developed and phased in to allow airlines to fly direct routes at optimum altitudes in order to conserve fuel and reduce GHG emissions. An airliner that takes off and flies direct to the destination at its optimal altitude could use up to 5% less fuel than one that flies the standard airways. The challenge of keeping thousands of aircraft that are all flying different headings at constantly changing altitudes from colliding with each other is one that is beyond human capability, but not beyond the powers of modern computers. The new computerized air traffic control system would be able to keep the flight paths of the thousands of planes in its memory at all times and know hours in advance of any conflicts that may arise and avoid these conflicts by making small adjustments to either altitude, heading, or the cruising speed of one or more aircraft in the most fuel efficient manner.
Who will take these actions?
The FAA, airlines, pilots and air traffic controllers will all have to work together to insure that the system is robust enough to offer complete safety and of course the computer security of the system would have to be hacker resistant so that fail safes would override the system at the first sign of an infiltration.
Where will these actions be taken?
How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?
Savings could be up to 5%
What are other key benefits?
Flights could be shorter and cheaper, and as the number of flights in the air continues to increase safer.
What are the proposal’s costs?
The initial cost of the system would be high and should the system be successfully implemented there would be loss of air traffic control jobs.
The initial phase of the system can be done immediately by flying more direct GPS routes and stepping up altitudes enroute wherever possible. Phase two could be an automated overlay of the current system that offers guidance and suggestions of more fuel efficient flight paths and warns of impending conflicts. Phase three is where we turn over control to the machines and realize all the benefits of computer driven efficiency.