Last Thursday, Federal Aviaion Administrator Randy Babbitt traveled to Seattle to award the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport a Voluntary Airport Low Emissions (VALE) grant for $18.3 million.
The grant, the largest of the FAA's VALE awards, supports installation of a pre-conditioned air plant that will make Sea-Tac one of the nation's few airports with a single, centralized system that covers the entire airport. The new system will allow aircraft at the gates to shut off auxiliary power and connect to the airport's cleaner central heating and cooling supply.
The project will reduce aircraft emissions at Sea-Tac by more than 50,000 metric tons of CO2. That's the equivalent of taking 8,700 cars off the road, and I think the residents of Seattle and Tacoma will appreciate that reduction. It will also save airlines up to five million gallons of fuel and $10 million in fuel costs per year.
"We've shown this can make a tremendous impact on our environmental footprint, one of our key goals," said Mark Reis, Sea-Tac Airport Managing Director. "The positive effects also include reduced noise from aircraft while they are parked at the gates."
Even better, the project is expected to create 120 jobs.
With the Voluntary Airport Low Emissions program, the FAA seeks to reduce airport ground emissions through low emission vehicles, refueling and recharging stations, gate electrification, and other airport air quality improvements like the new Sea-Tac pre-conditioned air plant. Since 2005, FAA has awarded 40 grants totalling $83 million.
As Administrator Babbitt said on Thursday:
"The FAA is encouraging airlines and airports to find creative ways to reduce aviation's impact on the environment, whether on the ground or in the air. NextGen technology will also help aviation go even greener by significantly reducing the amount of fuel burned during air travel."
To pursue cleaner skies in the Seattle-Tacoma region, the FAA has partnered with Sea-Tac, the Alaska Air Group and Boeing to work toward "Greener Skies Over Seattle." This program uses two NextGen technologies--Required Navigation Performance (RNP) and Optimized Profile Descent (OPD)--to burn less fuel and reduce emissions during landing procedures.
Typically, commercial aircraft travel a long approach pattern with stepped descents before landing. Using RNP technology and a continuous descent, aircraft can proceed from cruise altitude to an airport runway along a more direct flight path at low power.
"It's the difference between sliding down a banister and walking down the stairs," said Administrator Babbitt.
The lower power approach will also reduce noise levels for the 750,000 residents living below the flight corridor.
Alaska Air and Horizon Air planes equipped with RNP technology and using continuous descent have reduced emissions by 35% during landing procedures and achieved significant fuel savings. If all airplanes landing at Sea-Tac adopted these procedures, airlines could cut fuel consumption by 2.1 million gallons every year and reduce carbon emissions by 22,000 metric tons. That's the equivalent of taking 4,100 cars off the road every year.
Between the VALE program and NextGen technologies, I am proud to see the difference the FAA is making in the fight to reduce aviation emissions.