When planes get caught in traffic, pilots have to keep flying until the backup clears and their runways become available for landing. This means that air traffic controllers must send them on less-direct paths to their final destination, using more fuel in the process.
A software tool for air traffic management, Terminal Sequencing and Spacing (TSAS), has won NASA’s Software of the Year. TSAS will help planes descend more efficiently by controlling the spacing between individual aircraft, before they even reach the airport. The tool was handed over to the Federal Aviation Administration for deployment at airports in the field.