New landing procedures at DIA went into place this week. They are designed to save fuel, reduce noise, and could save passengers money, if airlines pass along those fuel savings to fliers.
Englewood-based Jeppesen, a unit of Boeing Flight Services, helped design the new landing procedures.
The new landings are possible because of GPS based technology, compared to a beacon and vector system used by pilots for years.
Pilots are moving away from the conventional "dive and drive" stairstepped landings, to a smooth, gradual descent procedure that uses less airspace.
The new procedures are part of a larger movement to upgrade the nation's air traffic control system, called NextGen.
"This is a big deal," Jeppesen President and CEO Mark Van Tine said. "I think we'll see less noise complaints. The procedures have been designed, with a consideration to the noise footprint."
The quieter landings should take place because planes' engines are idling on descent, Van Tine said.
"The engines are running, and it's very safe to do, but they are gliding from altitude all the way down to the runway and it saves fuel and reduces noise," he said.
DIA is one of a handful of airports around the country that have implemented the new landing technology, Van Tine says it has yet to be implemented on this scale.
He said the new flight patterns could bring major fuel savings for airlines at DIA.
"An airline can save as much as half a million gallons of fuel a year," he said. "And that translates into real cost savings for the airline, and of course, lower costs for the airline, should translate into lower ticket prices."
Jeppesen worked with the Federal Aviation Administration and other stakeholders to implement the "RNAV RNP" (Area Navigation with Required Navigation Performance).
To see an animation of the old versus new landing procedures, click here.
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)