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RNP = Reduced Emissions

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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:


Explorer C
The closest distance between two points is a straight line, that is a fact we learned in geometry 101. In aviation that is mostly true, regarding domestic flying in the States, but gets a little complicated when flying internationally on the great circle routes. But flying in the States, why not have a system that allows planes to fly in a straight line? It would save fuel, time, and money. In return, keep the cost low for passengers and help with emissions. Southwest leading the way to the future, it makes sense. Bradley
Explorer C
Why is this important to me?
Explorer C
It is important to you because Southwest uses a low-cost strategy. Better efficiency = less fuel burn = less money spent on fuel = lower cost to the airline = lower fares. It's all interconnected. And while you may think that this small savings isn't worth all the effort, multiply the savings of one aircraft by 527 (the number of aircraft in Southwest's fleet), and consider that each one of these aircraft fly an average of seven flights per day... (about 13 hours)... you can see the savings ends up being significant over the long run.