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Historic Flight Shows Environmental AdvancementsAviation has a long and distinguished record of environmental achievements.   Consider these facts:

  • Aircraft today are 60% more fuel efficient than those operated 30 years ago
  • The U.S. commercial aviation industry has improved its energy efficiency, moving 12% more people and 22% more freight than it did in 2000, while burning 4% less fuel and producing 8.4 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide
  • The number of people impacted by significant aircraft noise in the United States has been reduced by more than 90% since 1970

Building upon this record of environmental success, a first-ever demonstration flight (under the call sign “ASPIRE Flight 1”) was conducted today from Aukland, New Zealand to San Francisco that utilized the best, most innovative, and efficient technologies and procedures to save flying time, reduce fuel burn, and produce less harmful emissions. The flight touched on every aspect of air transportation, while taxiing on the ground, climbing to cruise altitude, utilizing the most direct routes, and applying the smoothest descent approach available.

“I’ve flown lots of jets in a whole lot of places, both for the Navy and as a airline pilot, and let me tell you, if you want to see where we need to go with navigation, you’re looking at it right here,” said FAA Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell, who was on hand at San Francisco International Airport to witness the touchdown of this historic flight. “Less fuel burn, less time; in short it’s good for the passenger and it’s good for the planet.  The bottom line is that this is going to change how we fly.”

The Air New Zealand flight was conducted as the first of several demonstration flights called the Asian-South Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE) with FAA partners Airservices Australia, and Airways New Zealand.  The key to the success of ASPIRE Flight 1 was the many technologies and procedures being tested and applied under the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation Modernization System (NextGen).

“NextGen is more than a focus on enhancing safety and capacity,” Sturgell said.  “It pushes for accelerating low noise and emissions aircraft technology.  It fosters the development of sustainable alternative fuels.  It deploys satellite technology that eliminates equipment on the ground.  Next Gen revolutionizes how we run the system.  And, it’s a clear victory for the taxpayer, passengers, and the environment.”

The ASPIRE flight optimized the departure to minimize aircraft run time before take off allowing the aircraft to get from the gate to the runway as quickly and smoothly as possible.  “It’s like a town that doesn’t need traffic signals, because all of the car movements are synchronized,” Sturgell said.