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UPS & SafeRoute
After more than a decade of development work by United Parcel Service (UPS), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given their final approval for the company to start to use a new set of technologies that are expected to significantly improve safety and efficiency, while reducing operational costs. On December 28th of last year, the FAA granted operations approval for SafeRoute. This is a software package that works in conjunction with the new electronic flight bags that being installed on UPS’ 757, 767, and 747-400 fleets.

SafeRoute was developed by avionics manufacturer ACSS and makes use of ADS-B, or Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, which precisely monitors an aircraft’s position with onboard transponders and global positioning satellites. The first operational 757 flight took place January 17th. UPS 767 and 747-400 flights using SafeRoute are expected to begin later this year.

“These are the first steps of a marathon that eventually will change the way our flights arrive into major hubs,” said Captain Christian Kast, Advanced Flight Systems Manager. “We hope to prove the concept of the next-generation continuous descent arrivals (NextGen CDA) so they can be implemented across the country,” he said.

NextGen CDA

A “NextGen CDA” allows for precise spacing between aircraft, along a pre-determined descent path, managed by the crew with electronic guidance. Instead of “dive and drive” vectoring to the final approach for landing, a designated “tube” of airspace is an express lane into Louisville from high-altitude airspace all the way down to the runway. A precise spacing in arrivals allows runways to be used to their maximum capacity, increasing efficiency.

“Another benefit is the predictability we’re injecting into the air traffic system,” said Captain Karen Lee, Director of Flight Operations, who has been working on ADS-B since 1996. “With a NextGen CDA, the ability for us to configure the aircraft for landing consistently at the same place all but eliminates the missed approaches, overtakes and breakouts that make the system unstable,” she said. Tests conducted over the last decade suggest ADS-B-enabled CDAs could increase airport capacity by 10 to 15 percent.

In addition to efficiency, SafeRoute will improve safety by giving crewmembers better situational awareness on the ground. The electronic flight bag displays a moving airport surface map showing aircraft and vehicles moving on the runways, taxiways and ramps. Future improvements include an alerting feature to notify operating crewmembers if a runway is occupied or about to be occupied.

UPS also believes ADS-B-enabled CDAs will have a green impact, based on the results of past tests. With throttles near idle during most of descent, a NextGen CDA will reduce an aircraft’s noise footprint by 30 percent, reduce emissions by 34 percent and reduce fuel burn by 40-70 gallons per flight.


With the first ADS-B-enabled CDA on January 17th, UPS has begun a long phase-in of the new technology and procedures at its main air hub at Louisville International Airport. The company will begin using ADS-B on its arrivals from the United States’ west coast in its nighttime Next Day Air operation. A total of 55 aircraft are scheduled to have operational EFBs and SafeRoute software by the end of 2008, when the goal is to have 20 to 25 percent of its arrivals using NextGen CDAs.

UPS Airlines

UPS Airlines, launched in 1988, is the 9th largest airline in the world, using more than 600 aircraft to serve more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. The company’s extensive air network includes international air hubs in Cologne, Taipei, Miami (to serve Latin America), an intra-Asia hub in the Philippines and, the UPS Worldport in Louisville, Kentucky (the four million square foot heart of UPS’ global air network). In addition to its airline, UPS is also a pioneer in developing aviation technologies to enhance the safety and efficiency of the aviation industry.