ATM Modernization, Business & GA, Commercial

Editor’s Note: Delivering Fuel Savings

By David Jensen | September 1, 2005
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Despite a sprinkling of bright spots in the air transport industry--aircraft orders inching up and some U.S. major carriers reporting positive, second quarter financial results--the dark cloud of escalating fuel prices looms stubbornly overhead. All carriers seek fuel saving measures. However, one freight hauler, UPS, appears to make this quest an obsession. What company, for example, would customize delivery routes for its package vans to yield primarily right turns in order to waste less time and fuel at stop lights? But with 88,000 road vehicles and a fuel bill in 2004 of $1.4 billion, you obviously want to preserve every drop of petro you can. And that goes double for UPS' aviation department, which operates a total of 570 jet aircraft.

In March 2003 UPS began testing a continuous descent approach arrival (CDA) procedure at its Louisville, Ky., base. Now also used for approaches into Mather airport in Sacramento, Calif., this procedure allows UPS pilots to make a steady speed descent at near idle power settings instead of the stair-step descent that requires up and down power settings.

In 2003 the UPS aviation department also began using the Lido flight planning system developed by Lufthansa German Airlines. Since this tool provides restricted airspace, weather and wind data, UPS dispatchers can develop the best flight plan in terms of time or fuel efficiency, both being equally important to the carrier. "Lido saved UPS more than a million gallons of fuel during the first year we used it," says Mark Giuffre, a UPS aviation spokesman.

Does UPS have assets in the cockpit to help save fuel? "The fuel saver in the cockpit is the pilot and the techniques he uses," says Karen Lee, the company's director of operations. For example, pilots of UPS aircraft equipped with flight management systems can make calculations that "tweak" the flight plan produced by Lido, she adds.

However, UPS pilots may soon have another fuel-saving tool at their disposal. The carrier is working closely with Phoenix-based ACSS to develop an automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) system that incorporates a "merging and spacing" tool. This software application uses ADS-B data to facilitate the pilot's control of spacing temporally when preparing for an approach. "This doesn't mean the pilot controls the separation or sequencing of aircraft," Lee emphasizes. "That's still done by the controller."

Rather, when aircraft are lined up to land, the tool determines the lead aircraft's speed changes and automatically calculates the appropriate speed changes for the pilot in the trailing aircraft. It allows better speed management (and fuel efficiency) and requires less vectoring and fewer speed changes from the controller, thus reducing his workload and the amount of voice communications.

UPS now uses ADS-B surveillance with its fleet of 107 Boeing 757s and 767s, but the data is presented on a cockpit display of traffic information, which is "costly and can be used for only one or two applications," says Lee. She hopes the new merging and spacing tool will be integrated into a Class III electronic flight bag (EFB), which can accommodate many applications, including the ADS-B traffic display. For example, the carrier has plans to incorporate a moving map display that shows airport runways and taxiways, with an icon to present ownship position. "We're putting together a business case [for the new ADS-B system and EFB] right now," Lee says. "When the [ACSS system] is certified in the fourth quarter of 2006, we hope to start equipping our aircraft and have the system in operation by the first quarter of 2007."

Upcoming Symposium

Looking for every means to save fuel, UPS has kept a keen eye on the advantages of required navigation performance (RNP), as well. "It's definitely the future," says Lee, adding that it "would mean less vectoring" and thus save fuel.

RNP is one of three key topics to be discussed at the Avionics Magazine/AEEC Symposium Oct. 6. in Seattle, in conjunction with the annual Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) general session, held Oct. 3-6. Along with discussions of RNP by industry leaders, the symposium will include a session on integrated avionics and modular software, and one on Airbus' and Boeing's views on the latest developments in avionics. For more information visit

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