NASA technology to save commercial airlines fuel

During the next three years, Virgin America and Alaska Airlines said they will use the traffic aware planner (TAP) application, to make traffic aware strategic aircrew requests (TASAR).

“TAP connects directly to the aircraft avionics information hub on the aircraft,” said David Wing, TASAR project lead at NASA´s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. “It reads the current position and altitude of the aircraft, its flight route, and other real-time information that defines the plane´s current situation and active flight plan. Then it automatically looks for a variety of route and/or altitude changes that could save fuel or flight time and displays those solutions directly to the flight crew.”

For airlines with Internet connectivity in the cockpit, TAP also can access information — such as real-time weather conditions, wind forecast updates and restricted airspace status — to further increase flight efficiency. The software is loaded onto a tablet computer, which many airline pilots already use for charts and flight calculations.

Wing and his team already have tested the TASAR software twice aboard a Piaggio P180 Avanti aircraft, a high-performance technology test bed owned and operated by Advanced Aerospace Solutions, LLC of Raleigh, North Carolina. The system worked well on its initial test flight from Virginia to Kentucky, according to its test pilot, former airline captain William Cotton.

NASA researchers expect this and other aviation technologies under development will help revolutionize the national airspace system, reducing delays and environmental impacts and improving passenger comfort and efficiency, even as the demand for air travel continues to grow.