Want to go Green? No, I’m not talking about leprechauns and four-leaf clovers. This is about being environmentally friendly. Today Southwest Airlines announced plans to tackle emissions reductions by employing a gee-whiz navigation technology called RNP (Required Navigation Performance).
RNP, which leverages the accuracy of GPS to create accurate and efficient flight paths, is part of the FAA vision for future airspace. In partnership with Naverus (experts in RNP technology) Southwest plans to use RNP at every airport to reduce fuel burns and emissions.
How does RNP reduce emissions? Jets burn the least amount of fuel while cruising along in the Stratosphere. During takeoff and landing, however, the aircraft requires a lot of oomph from the engines. I know “oomph” is not a technical term, but it equates to fuel burn, and that means carbon and noise emissions. RNP allows for very precise and much more efficient paths in the sky. If you were trying to drive from New York to Chicago you would probably stay on the interstate highway with all its twists and turns. Imagine, though, if you could build a straight road between the two cities? That new road would be shorter and require less gas in your tank. That is what RNP does for an airplane. It is like we are building a shorter road. There are other tangible benefits to RNP, too, such as Continuous Descent Arrivals (CDA), which allow an RNP capable airplane to descend into terminal airspace at near-idle power settings. Every time an airplane levels off it has to use some of that oomph I talked about … which means unnecessary fuel burn and associated carbon emission.
Admittedly, all the airplanes in the world generate less than 3% of all carbon emissions, but Southwest Airlines is committed to doing our part to lessen that impact. In fact, we are putting our money where our mouth is by making a significant financial commitment to RNP. A lot of things have to change, but by 2015 our RNP program should save 156,000 metric tons of emissions each year. That is the equivalent of providing electricity to 69,000 U.S. households for an entire year.
***Southwest Airlines Senior Director of Flight Operations Jeff Martin spoke today about the benefits of RNP and Southwest's progression on RNP implementation fleet-wide at the Eco-Aviation Conference in Washington, D.C. -- follow this link to view the complete presentation: http://www.southwest.com/about_swa/press/rnp.pdf.