As planes line up for landing today, pilots maintain steady communication with air traffic controllers to ensure that all planes maintain safe distances from one another. The time spent relaying information means pilots can adjust speed only as quickly as they hear from the tower. This wait creates the need to leave an extra safety buffer of space between each arriving aircraft, limiting the number that can land within a given time.
NASA's flight deck interval management (FIM) system cuts down on the banter: it combines satellite-based location tracking and automated computer commands to keep track of planes' positions and constantly updates pilots on safe flight speeds for landing. This eliminates the padding between aircraft—which could save on fuel costs, reduce emissions and bump up the number of flights that arrive on time.
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