Continuous descent approach

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Schematic descent profile of a conventional approach (red) and a continuous descent approach (green).

Continuous descent approach (CDA) also known as optimized profile descent (OPD), is a method by which aircraft approach airports prior to landing. It is designed to reduce fuel consumption and noise compared to other conventional descents. Instead of approaching an airport in a stairstep fashion, throttling down and requesting permission to descend to each new (lower) altitude, CDA allows for a smooth, constant-angle descent to landing.

A continuous descent approach starts from the top of descent, i.e. at cruise altitude, and allows the aircraft flying its individual optimal vertical profile down to runway threshold. Some airports apply constraints to this individual optimal profile.

United Kingdom[edit]

The approach to London Heathrow Airport uses CDA, particularly at night to minimize noise pollution.[1] It is also used at Gatwick Airport.[2]

United States[edit]

Due to the negative association with the term CDA,[citation needed] new procedures introduced at LAX and other US airports are instead called optimized profile descent (OPD).[citation needed] Although CDA procedures were documented at Louisville International Airport, the procedures at high capacity airports, such as Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), require lower altitudes than step down approaches. Not only does this negate the benefits of CDAs, but actually increases noise and pollution.[citation needed]


  1. ^ BAA Heathrow (2004–2005). "Flight Evaluation Report 2004/05" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-11-26. Retrieved 2 November 2007. 
  2. ^ BAA Gatwick. "Flight Evaluation Report 2006/07" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2008. Retrieved 26 January 2008.