SEA-TAC AIRPORT -The efforts to reduce jet fuel consumption and limit green house gases appears to be paying off as part of the Greener Skies initiative pursued by Sea-Tac Airport, Alaska Airlines, Boeing and the FAA.
The Northwest airport was designated the first rest case to reduce fuel consumption in 2010 and the first phase started rolling out for real in the spring of 2013.
Alaska Airlines says it's saved $2.2 million dollars in fuel costs mostly by avoiding the traditional "stair-stepped" procedure involving descending, leveling off burning fuel, descending again all the way to the runway. Now the procedure allows Alaska and other airlines to avoid the stair steps and basically coast to a safe landing with the engines essentially at idle.
The second part has been slower to implement. Alaska and other carriers could use Required Navigational Performance (RNP) to shave 17 miles off the distance involved in landing using a sophisticated suite of instruments.
The RNP approaches are used around the country, especially in Alaska where bad weather and mountains can make flying hazardous. But so far, the airline is only allowed to use the approach procedure known as HAWKZ in good weather. If that approach can be used more widely, the airline contends that fuel savings could top 1.3 million gallons, or 44 gallons of jet fuel per flight, with a carbon dioxide reduction equivalent of taking 4,100 cars off the roads.