A new arrival course for planes approaching Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is being touted as an airspace concept that is expected to reduce pollution and noise, says the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The route, known as a Continuous Descent Approach (CDA), allows aircraft to glide down into LAX using minimal power, starting more than 100 miles east of the airport.
“This is an approach that the FAA started in Louisville, Kentucky,” said Ian Gregor, a spokesman with the FAA. “It took several years to work it into LAX.”
The conventional airport approaches typically require aircraft to make a series of steep descents followed by periods of level flight.
They also require controllers to issue more instructions and pilots to make more maneuvers.
Using the new method, the FAA says fuel usage and aircraft noise will now be reduced.
The new arrival course is also expected to reduce workloads for pilots and air traffic controllers, says the federal agency.
Michael Foote, president of the Western Pacific Region National Air Traffic Controllers Association, disagrees with the assessment that controllers’ work- load will see a decrease.
“For every airplane that is moved into this new CDA route, another plane from Burbank or Ontario will have to be rerouted and have to be directed to fly at a lower altitude upon arrival,” Foote pointed out.
United Parcel Service (UPS), which uses these new routes for about a dozen flights into Louisville, has seen a 34 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions below 3,000 feet, and a 30 percent reduction in aircraft noise within 15 miles of the airport, according to the FAA.
“UPS aircraft flying this approach also save between 250 and 465 pounds of fuel per flight,” Gregor added. “UPS pilots love [the new course] because it’s a lot less work for them on arrival.”
Melvin Davis, the representative for the Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control facility, does not feel that there will be any ancillary benefits to the implementation of the new arrival route for controllers.
“There will be zero benefits to air traffic controllers at LAX on a daily basis,” said Davis, whose San Diego tower controls all flights to Southern California’s airports. He believes that only a select number of flights will be helped by the new flight course.
“There are 6,000 operations at LAX each day,” Davis noted. “By our estimation, only about 500 will benefit from the CDA.”
The new arrival course into LAX, which the FAA began using on December 20th, follows the same flight path as the conventional approach. Approximately 250 planes — roughly 27 percent of LAX arrivals — fly this route every day.
Assemblyman Ted Lieu, whose district includes LAX, applauded the new arrival course.
“I was glad to hear that the FAA and LAX have instituted the use of continuous descent approach on about 250 arriving flights at the airport,” he wrote in an e-mail response. “With the expected reduction of 30 percent in air and noise pollution, this practice is a commendable and welcomed change.”
“This will make the surrounding communities in my district a safer and better place to live,” Lieu added. “I hope the FAA continues to utilize this method on additional flights.
Gregor said a considerable amount of time was spent on the implementation of the new arrival route.
“Over 100,000 hours of simulation were run to determine the best profile that could be flown with the maximum number of aircraft,” said the FAA spokesman.
The FAA considered two important components prior to instituting the new arrival path.
“We wanted to design it so that the vast majority of airplanes could fly in it,” Gregor explained. “We also wanted to design it so that the new route did not conflict with cross-traffic routes.”
While Lieu commended the federal government for instituting the new arrival approach, he feels there are other changes the FAA must consider implementing.
“This is a great first step; however it does not release the FAA from what I believe is their obligation to expand regional airport use and implement immediate short term measures to make air travel safer,” the assemblyman cautioned. “I look forward to working with the FAA and LAX to resolve these issues.”