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Airlines aim for a softer landing

AVIATION groups in Europe have announced a plan to change the way commercial planes land in order to reduce their global-warming emissions of carbon dioxide.

By 2013 some 100 European airports will allow planes to descend all the way from cruising altitude to the runway in one smooth glide, saving up to 450 kilograms of CO2 per landing, the International Air Transport Association said yesterday.

In all, airlines are hoping to save 500,000 metric tons of carbon gas this way each year, said IATA's head of infrastructure Guenther Matschnigg.

The measure - the first continent-wide plan of its kind - is part of the airline industry's effort to combat climate change, IATA said.

It also comes amid concerns that the current global economic crisis could keep governments and businesses from transforming their carbon-dependent economies.

Industry leaders meeting in Geneva for a two-day summit on aviation's impact on the environment said that while the slowdown in air travel would lead to lower carbon emissions in the short term, a sustainable reduction requires new technologies and more efficient use of airspace.

IATA, which represents 230 airlines worldwide, said last week that passenger traffic is expected to drop by 5.7 percent this year, while cargo demand will decline by 13 percent. The resulting reduction in flights will cut carbon emissions by 6 percent this year, said IATA chief executive Giovanni Bisignani.

Fuel-efficiency measures will cut emissions by a further 1.8 percent, resulting in a total reduction of 10 million tons of CO2 this year, he said.

"2009 is a critical year," said Bisignani. IATA last week predicted airlines worldwide would lose US$4.7 billion this year as a result of the economic downturn.

Airlines want governments to earmark part of their economic stimulus packages for research and development into biofuels and next-generation air traffic management systems, he said.


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