Environment benefits from NextGen aircraft arrival procedures at MSP

The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) has measured environmental impacts of adopting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) NextGen aircraft arrival procedures at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) and has determined the new procedures have resulted in the biggest known air quality benefit of any single action in MSP history, the commission said.

Previously, aircraft approaching the airport would descended in stages reducing altitude and leveling off until landing. With the new arrival procedures implemented at MSP in March 2015, called optimized profile descents (OPD), pilots continue flying at cruise altitude longer, and once they start their descent, they continue it until they land. Keeping the plane throttled back reduces fuel burn and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Using data supplied by airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the MAC has become the first airport operator in the nation to measure the impacts of OPD. The MAC estimates that airlines burn 2.9 million fewer gallons of fuel per year using OPD procedures than they would using traditional staged descents on approach to MSP. As a result of the reduced fuel burn, arriving aircraft emit 28,465 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually than they otherwise would.

Since airlines began using OPD arrivals at MSP in March 2015, they have conserved more than 5.8 million gallons of fuel, saving an estimated USD 9.5m in fuel costs and preventing more than 57,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, the equivalent of removing more than 12,000 cars from the road, or planting 54,000 acres of forest.

Last month, Airports Council International-North America presented the MAC with a 2017 Environmental Achievement Award for developing a way to measure use and environmental benefits of OPD. The award recognized the MAC in the Innovative and Special Projects award category.