… / Smarter skies / Low-noise, free-glide approaches and landings

Free-glide approaches and landings

Allowing aircraft to take free glide approaches into airports would lower emissions during the overall decent and reduce noise during the steeper approach as there is no need for engine thrust or air breaking.

These approaches also would reduce the landing speed earlier, making shorter landing distances achievable with less runway needed.

A new approach to (gently) touching down

Everything is going smoothly (and quietly) as you glide back towards ground in a continuous descent.

Today aircraft descend in stages and often are forced to wait in the air, circling in holding patterns to avoid congested airspace or while awaiting a landing slot. However, levelling off during descent requires an increase in thrust.  That means extra fuel burn and emissions – as well as unnecessary delays for passengers.

With better air traffic management, aircraft could enter a fuel-efficient descent based on when best to leave cruise level – with no risk of getting stuck in traffic. 

Just as when climbing, a continuous descent would see aircraft use only the minimum thrust needed.  Aircraft featuring technology to optimise landing positions with pinpoint accuracy could glide smoothly into airports with their engines running in idle, for significantly reduced fuel burn, emissions and noise.

Slower landing speeds would lead to shorter runways – by up to 1/3rd – a viable possibility on arrival just as with departure.  And more efficient land use could see airport capacities increase or new micro-airports close to "mega-city" centres.

The ultimate idea, likely beyond 2050, would be to use the same renewably-powered system on landing as at takeoff, receiving aircraft and removing the need for landing gear.  This would require all alternate/diversion airports to have the same system. Either way, as the aircraft touches down, kinetic energy can be captured for future use.  For example, it might power on-board systems during taxiing or the ground-based propulsion system used for takeoff.

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Did you know?

"We surveyed over 10,000 people around the world who will be passengers in 2050 to ask what they want from the aviation industry in the future.

Their message was clear – we need to help as many people as possible share in the benefits that air transport brings, but we need to achieve this while looking after the environment."

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