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Planes' Landing Approach To Change

The way airplanes make their final approach to airports is about to change. The FAA says the change will result in more efficiency, and decrease aircraft emissions. Currently, approaching planes descend a little, level off, and descend a little more - kind of like they're walking down stairs. "It's the aviation equivalent of stop-and-go driving along the highway," says Michael Huerta, acting FAA adminstrator. At a media briefing in Atlanta on Wednesday, he said that gridlock is about to ease some for planes coming into Charlotte. Pilots will switch to a "optimized profile descent," which Huerta says is like "sliding down the bannister." The old way used less-sophisticated radar. The stair-step method was a safety precaution because it helped ensure planes wouldn't descend on top of each other. But new GPS technology allows for greater accuracy in tracking planes. The FAA says the change will save airlines coming into Charlotte 3.7 million gallons of fuel a year. US Airways agrees the new method will save the airline money.