New Flight Procedure Reduces Emissions and Saves Fuel

The world’s first in-flight demonstration of a new procedure that saves fuel and reduces emissions during flights was recently carried out by the partners of the CRISTAL ITP (In-trail Procedure) project which is led by Airbus.

It has long been known that aircraft perform better at their optimal altitude, but since the weight of the aircraft is reduced as its fuel is burned, aircraft will normally have to keep climbing in order to stay at their optimum altitude. Fuel consumption and emissions can also be affected by favorable wind conditions and it may be necessary to rise or fall accordingly. Thus it is generally very difficult to maintain optimum cruise efficiency. However the new in-trail procedure has been developed to help aircraft do just that, since it enables them to easily perform altitude changes that can contribute to higher levels of fuel efficiency, less fuel burn and less emissions.

The demonstration flight took place in Icelandic airspace using an A340 test aircraft and an SAS A330. The A340 was able to successfully carryout several changes in altitude relative to the SAS A330. This was mainly due to the fact that the A340 has been fitted with a new aircraft system that included an ACSS Traffic Computer. The system enabled the pilot to receive flight identification and positioning information about surrounding aircraft. The system is based on new air surveillance technology that is currently being certified by Airbus.

The focus on the new system is on oceanic airspace which lacks radar systems so it is difficult – if not impossible – for aircraft to collaborate their movements in this environment. The new system enables the controller to use the information that he is provided with for more climbing opportunities so that he can maintain his optimum cruise efficiency. The development is part of widespread European efforts to reduce fuel burn and emissions and it is hoped that the results will benefit projects such as the Atlantic Interoperability initiative to Reduce Emissions (AIRE). Airbus, as an industry leader, strives to be an eco-efficient enterprise and it has won certificates with regards to these efforts. It comes as little surprise then that Airbus is at the forefront of these new developments. Other partners involved in the CRISTAL ITP trial are NATS, ISAVIA, EUROCONTROL CASCADE program and SAS.