June 24 – FAA is speeding up implementation of more efficient airport departure procedures that cut down on aviation fuel burn.
Area navigation (RNAV) procedures increase the number of departure routes, allowing air traffic controllers to disperse aircraft more efficiently. This reduces taxi time, ground delays and miles flown.
An RNAV procedure's headings, turns, altitudes and speeds can be programmed into a plane's avionics system, reducing controller-pilot communications and increasing fuel efficiencies.
Due to a new software program, these RNAV procedures are being put into place much faster than usual. Just a few years ago, designing the 50 RNAV procedures the FAA plans to publish this year would have been a tedious task involving compasses, drafting boards and multiple erasers.
But today, the Terminal Area Route Generation Evaluation and Traffic Simulation Tool, or TARGETS for short, makes drafting a new procedure a relatively short and simple process.
FAA specialists can draft a procedure in a matter of minutes, make changes to it instantly, and quickly run a low-fidelity simulation to make sure that planes will be able to fly it.
TARGETS can save weeks during the design stage of developing new RNAV procedures. And thanks to the flyability and FAA criteria checks provided by the software's simulator tool, numerous revisions can be avoided, extending the potential time savings to months.
With TARGETS, specialists can also attach speeds to navigational points, or fixes. That way a plane will automatically slow to a certain speed as it crosses a fix, making their movements easier to predict for controllers.
With the procedure drawn, a specialist can turn to TARGETS’s simulation feature to check to see that the route is flyable. The simulator tests the route based on the capabilities of generic small, medium and large jets. But if a procedure were being designed for a specific aircraft, such as a Boeing 757, a specialist could enter the jet’s performance characteristics into TARGETS, and the program would check to see if a 757 could fly the route.
At a time when fuel oil prices are at all-time highs, saving fuel helps the environment and saves money. RNAV is just one of many efforts FAA is undertaking that achieves both goals.