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With Earth Day just around the corner, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which owns and operates Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), announced this week that aircraft arrival procedures implemented at MSP Airport two years ago have resulted in the biggest known air quality benefit of any single action in airport history.

Thanks to the data and resources supplied by Delta, Endeavor, the FAA, and other airlines, the MAC has developed a first-of-it-kind tool that can measure the impacts of optimized profile descents, or OPD, at airports. The results at MSP are impressive: airlines burn 2.9 million fewer gallons of fuel per year using OPD procedures than they would using traditional staged descents on approach to MSP. As a result of the reduced fuel burn, arriving aircraft emit 28,465 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.

“Delta has a longstanding and ongoing commitment to working with the MAC, the FAA and community leaders to reduce environmental impacts around MSP while also improving safety and efficiency,” said Bill Lentsch, Senior Vice President – Delta Connection and Global Services, at a MAC press conference earlier this week to announce these findings. “We are proud to have played a role in developing a tool to measure the effects of these new arrival procedures, and we congratulate all of our local partners for their environmental stewardship.”

Traditionally, when aircraft approach the airport, pilots descend in stages through a series of procedures involving reducing altitude, then leveling off, reducing altitude more and leveling off again, and so on until they finally land. Using OPD, pilots continue flying at cruise altitude longer, and once they start their descent, they continue it until they land. Keeping the plane throttled back reduces fuel burn and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Since airlines began using OPD arrivals at MSP in 2015, they have conserved more than 5.8 million gallons of fuel, saving an estimated $9.5 million in fuel costs and preventing more than 57,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent of removing more than 12,000 cars from the road, eliminating the energy used at 6,000 homes or planting 54,000 acres of forest.

Minneapolis-St. Paul is Delta's second-largest hub, and the airline offers more than 400 peak-day departures to 140 worldwide destinations.