Continuous Descent Arrival

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Continuous Descent Arrival, also referred to as the Continuous Descent Approach, has proven, through both simulation and flight demonstration tests, to be highly advantageous over conventional arrival and approach procedures that require combinations of level flight segments and descents (“dive-and-drive”). These advantages provide ample motivation for research efforts to further develop CDA for implementation in low-density through high-density traffic. CDA's environmental and economic benefits were demonstrated by PARTNER researchers in flight tests at Louisville International Airport in 2002 and 2004, and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in 2007. Successful implementation was also achieved at Los Angeles International Airport in 2007 and Atlanta in 2009. From the environmental perspective, there are significant reductions in noise along portions of the flight path (due to reductions in thrust and a higher average altitude) and emissions (due to reductions in thrust). From the economic viewpoint, there are significant fuel and flight time savings (due to reductions in thrust and a higher average speed) as well as the potential to meet or exceed current runway throughput without the need to vector aircraft. Future work will include a module integrated with the existing FAA TARGETS analysis program to facilitate CDA future development; in addition, to enable CDA implementation in a more dense traffic situation, a metering tool is being developed for the aircraft merging and spacing required


Prototype tools and protocols for continuous descent arrival sequencing and spacing, that can lead to quieter and more fuel efficient arrivals.

Participating universities

Georgia Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Lead investigator

John-Paul Clarke, Associate Professor, School of Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology,

Project manager

Sandy Liu


Development, design, and flight test evaluation of a continuous descent approach procedure for nighttime operation at Louisville International Airport. John-Paul Clarke, et al. January 9, 2006. (Report No. PARTNER-COE-2005-02)
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