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Planes Are Finally Making Logical Descents Into American Runways

Planes flying into Houston are burning less fuel and making less noise than before, thanks to an FAA project implemented this month. Instead of the conventional descent—leveling out between drops in altitude—pilots will follow a steady path to the ground with the engine throttle near idle. ( More...

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indy2001 7
Lord protect us from ignorant (and lazy) reporters.

"Usually, planes approaching an airport drop altitude in steps, cranking up the engines to level out in between. That makes it easier for pilots to control descents and for air traffic controllers to keep track of everyone and manage spacing between planes. ** Crews check in with the ground at each interval, making sure they’re clear to drop a few thousand more feet. ** It’s a safe but inefficient way to get lots of planes on the ground."

Crews check in with the ground while still miles away from the airport. That'll be news to flight crews and ground controllers alike.
shuras85 3
KSEA has been doing this for years
vector4traffic 2
So how will windshear events get handled if the engines are seconds away from providing power?
John Bartels 1
This is a way of managing the descent from altitude, not the approach. Windshear is not really an issue until low level (windshear warning systems don't even work until below about 1,500 feet). Engines will be spooled up to as usual on the approach (from about 3,000 feet).
Gene spanos 2
The space shuttle approach.
" It can be done here at O'Hare " - Per Amy Hanson's (FAA) statement.
Too busy of an airport.
The Space Shuttle would orbit until the weather was good enough for landing.
Sure this will work, because Metro areas never have holding patterns
Mark Holm 3
How will this affect the frequency of throttle mismanagement errors, similar to the Asiana SFO crash? With the step down approach, the throttle setting changes multiple times during the procedure, making the crew more aware of its action. With optimized descent, the throttle remains at idle until low altitude and, perhaps low airspeed, a poor time for confusion about what the throttle is doing. I realize this depends a lot on details of cockpit system design and usage.
Bryce Johnson 1
I doubt the throttle will be full idle. At a 3-degree descent (100 miles out to lose 30,000 feet), airplanes will still have to carry power.
John Bartels 1
A normal descent profile does not require any power when clean. Engines only need to be spooled up after the aircraft is configured.
David Webb 1
Agreed, a competent airline pilot should be able to dead-stick (no engines running) a modern jetliner (assuming an operating APU) from 30,000 feet to a runway a hundred miles away. Done it dozens of times in a simulator and most airline pilots have been trained to do likewise (at least the ones I know).

As a matter of fact, as a instructor / check airman with a major airline I, personally, have never seen a pilot fail to complete a successful approach and landing under those conditions in a simulator. --- Not something that we try in a real aircraft --
Shadows 1
Having flown the new arrivals it is in the early stages for ATC in the west Texas sector and Houston Approach. What happens prior to the arrival is a circus - 2 heading changes - one 90 degrees off course followed by a 180 back through the original flight path before getting a clearance to a fix headed to IAH. Offering a 40KTAS speed reduction did help the controller to decrease the vector distance (time). We aren't saving fuel yet---
Also too, ice in the fuel system.
Chris Muncy 1
I suggest listening to and hear how controllers and pilots like the new changes... There is going to be an adjustment to the procedures coming up in the middle to end of July. Lots of pilots and controllers alike can be heard saying "how in the hell do they expect us to do this" and "who the hell designed these procedures?"
Vectorer 1
Son of old FAA "KEEP 'EM HIGH" program. Deja vu all over again...
james denike 1
near idle. How about minimum N1 rpm for severe icing?
David Maskell 1
You have got to be sh--ing me!
N7172P 1
OK.. where are all the oldtimers???Arrival and departure corridors were asked for before the upsidedown cake system was forced on us by the FAA.The illogivc of the current system seems to have been devised by the FAA as a means to keep everyone confused,and slow traffic, and catch unsuspecting pilots in the maze of junk now in effect.
Zac Armstrong 1
As someone who flies into the Houston area multiple times a week, the new procedures were different, but very effective. Not only do they allow for less congestion at the major 3 airports, but also allow aircraft to climb higher faster from the smaller GA airports such as DWH, SGR, and CXO. Not only does this reduce fuel consumption, especially in turbine powered aircraft, but also allows for an easier departure procedure. While the transition itself was (and sometimes still is) different and difficult, I think it is for the better. I, for one, like the changes as they have helped our flight operations save money and time.
smoki 1
The reporter did a credible job of piecing the story together despite his obvious unfamiliarity with the subject. Some posters only purpose it seems in this forum is to find fault with layman reporters for lacking their experience level with the subject. My experience in the past with descending into LAX from the east always seemed to be a continuous letdown and in the "Deezel Eight" with no flight spoiler speed brakes it was a challenge to get it slowed down when heavy without having to use inboard thrust reverse especially when asked to "keep the speed up" until 5 miles out. Inboard reverse of turbo-fans in flight was a last resort because it got everyone's attention real fast with all the shaking going on (ala Jerry Lee Lewis' old rock tune). It was not uncommon to be asked by ATC: "Can you get it down from there?" as they could see we were going high as we were forced to arrest the descent, slow to gear and flap speed, hang everything out in fairly rapid succession and with throttles at idle, descending in a continuous decel until short final before finally bringing up the throttles by sheer necessity.

Accordingly, It was difficult to have any sympathy for the Asiana crew for screwing up and falling so far behind the airplane as to become passengers themselves and failing basic airmanship 101 while trying to push buttons, flip switches and twist knobs on the AFCS panel as if they were flying a video game. When the "bells and whistles" fall behind it's time to dispense with the bells and whistles and drive the machine by hand. The NTSB in my opinion got down and wallowed in the weeds in their final report and came up with their gem that the airplane's systems were a little too complicated. What a bunch of BS. Pilot's by necessity are among the most adaptable creatures to ever strap themselves into a flying machine. It comes with the territory.

Reducing crews from 3 to 2 up front in the heavies and trying to compensate with technology was always a mistake in my opinion. That other set of eyeballs sitting behind the throttles and scanning the gauges saved the day many a time during an approach or otherwise sometimes with only one word like "speed" or "altitude." Unfortunately too many CVR tapes also include the usual two exclamatory words just before the tape suddenly ends.
ken young 1
that's aviation BUFF....Damn typo.
Ren Babcock 1
Shouldn't the headline say "onto American Runways"?
steve rogers -3
wow amagine that , pilots that actualy have to fly !! now that's scary !
ken young -2
I'm not a pilot. I am an aviation enthusiast who has learned a lot from the aviators that post here as well as reading things on my own...
With that said, I do not like this at all.
This is another instance where the rules are being crafted to allow the flight crew to not "fly the plane". It would ( permit my ignorance for not using proper lingo)
all the crew to apply automatic settings during approach. It is my understanding that the most crucial and potentially hazardous portion of a flight is approach and landing.
I'm calling BS on the fuel issue. The stepped approach does not appear to involve the kind of throttle up that burns much more fuel.
Also, the stepped method kind of allows the flight crew to "pause their descent to 'see what's going on' then continue on.
John Bartels 3
You seem to think that having stepped descents means that it can't be done using the autopilot...which of course, it can.

The total amount of fuel used in steps can add up to a very substantial amount. Across the thousands of aircraft being unnecessarily stepped, it would add up to a very impressive figure.

The constant chatter with regard to the steps adds in more opportunities for confusion between ATC and crews.

Crews don't need to paused the descent to see what is going on. They should already know. But, it does give an opportunity for a delayed clearance to a lower altitude to set them up high. In fact that's already a nasty feature of ATC at many US airports, and is perhaps implicated to a degree in the Asiana SFO accident.
ken young 2
Never use the phrase "you seem to think"...Thank you. Here's why...I do not 'think' that is true. In fact I am aware that stepped approaches often involve automated controls.
My thinking that the act of putting an aircraft into "cruise control" during the most crucial part of the operation is not the way to go. Especially in major metro areas with heavy traffic.
John Bartels 6
You start off with the comment that you are not a pilot. Straight away that colours any comment you make. For what it's worth, I'm a current A380 captain, and have flown the 747-400 and 767-200/300 in command. The use of an arrival that tidily joins up with an approach is not cruise control, nor does it remove the crew from the activity of the aircraft. It does stop waste, and removes a lot of options for ATC and crew to get it wrong.
ken young 1
In my world, every man is my teacher in that I may learn from him..

This why I was honest about being an enthusiast. I consider myself to be more advanced an aviation biff than most folks. However, I am always willing to learn and if I am in error I appreciate the education part.
So,with that in mind please explain the difference in the procedures if not in a perfect world.
Weather, traffic congestion, etc?
Can this approach system be used universally?


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