Thursday, March 06, 2008

FAA History Lesson -- March 6



From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Mar 6, 1972: FAA announced the establishment of an FAA-Industry Area Navigation Task Force to advise and assist the agency in the further application of its area navigation system. The action followed a Jan 24-25, FAA-sponsored international symposium on area navigation that pointed up a need to review FAA's program. In subsequent months the task force conducted in-depth studies and tests to assess the system's value and to determine how area navigation could most effectively be implemented. The test results generally confirmed the advantages previously supposed (see Oct 1, 1969) -- that area navigation provided cost benefits by allowing an aircraft en route to stay higher longer and thus conserve fuel, and to arrive at the descent point at precisely the correct time for a letdown without delays. In addition, by extensively analyzing terminal area operations, the tests confirmed that area navigation equipment could be used to move traffic at the same level of efficiency as radar vectors while reducing controller workload by restoring greater responsibility to the cockpit. By the end of fiscal 1973, a nationwide system of high altitude area navigation routes had been established consisting of approximately 156 route segments. “

Let me reemphasize a point in the above -- “provided cost benefits by allowing an aircraft en route to stay higher longer and thus conserve fuel, and to arrive at the descent point at precisely the correct time for a letdown without delays.” That was 36 years ago and the tune really hasn’t changed.

The latest incarnation of this idea is Continuos Descent Approaches. If you don’t know what they are you can read about them over at The Cranky Flier. Great ! Marvelous ! Wonderful ! Except they don’t work. Oh, a pilot can fly one. The computer can calculate it. You can even make them work (most of the time) if you’re the only company using the airport, all the surrounding airspace and it’s the middle of the night. Otherwise, they don’t work. I’m sure that won’t stop us from chasing them for another 36 years.


Don Brown
March 6, 2008

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