Mumbai: Indian air traffic controllers will participate in a 16 July demonstration flight that seeks to determine new air routes that are more fuel-efficient than the current ones. These next-generation air routes are expected to result in savings on fuel and flying time, besides lowering carbon dioxide emissions and saving money.
“This experiment will lead to flexible, user-preferred routes, which may not necessarily be shortest (as the crow flies), but certainly more efficient in terms of fuel use and lower emissions,” said a consultant to airlines who did not want to be named. “It will allow the airline to maximize use of winds, on-board avionics and meteorological updates to chart and file the most efficient flight path.”
The Perth-Dubai demonstration flight is being operated by Emirates and will be supported by a senior Mumbai air traffic control (ATC) team. Senior officials in Mumbai confirmed the development, but did not elaborate.
Flexible routes: Indian airlines will welcome any move to any savings they can make on fuel, which accounts for up to 40% of their operating costs. Sales tax on the fuel can be as much as 24%. Photo Vijayanand Gupta/Hindustan Times
India’s airlines will welcome any savings they can make on fuel, which accounts for up to 40% of their operating costs. Sales tax on the fuel can be as much as 24%. The country’s three listed airlines may have made losses in the quarter ended June, owing to high jet fuel prices, excess capacity and fierce competition for passengers, according to analyst estimates.
The June quarter is considered the second best for domestic airlines, next to the October-December period, which is dominated by the holiday season. The companies have not reported their earnings yet.
This test flight is part of four under Inspire—the Indian Ocean Strategic Partnership to Reduce Emissions. Inspire was started by Airservices Australia to implement environment-friendly air traffic management processes and technologies on flights across the Indian Ocean.
Such routes will mostly be helpful for long-haul international flights, although short-haul flights will benefit in the long term, said officials involved with the programme.
Air India Ltd, Jet Airways (India) Ltd, Kingfisher Airlines Ltd and SpiceJet Ltd fly to international destinations. IndiGo, run by InterGlobe Aviation Pvt. Ltd, will start international operations by August.
The Inspire flights will demonstrate air-traffic efficiencies that can be achieved through cooperation between air navigation service providers and implementation of best-practice operational and air traffic management procedures, said Albert Tjoeng, spokesperson for the International Air Transport Association (Iata).
“Supported by the data collected from these initial flights, we look forward to other best-practices being implemented in the region,” he said.
Iata represents some 230 airlines and comprises 93% of scheduled international air traffic.
Airservices Australia is a government-owned corporation providing air traffic management services.
“The aim of these flights is to demonstrate the flight efficiency that can be achieved within the current Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean air traffic management environment, by removing controllable system constraints as far as is practicable,” said Airservices Australia spokesperson Paul Sadler. “The reduction in emissions that will be demonstrated by these flights will serve as a credible target level for air navigation service providers to work towards.”
Airservices Australia’s general manager (air traffic control) Jason Harfield said, “A South African Airways demonstration flight from Perth to Johannesburg, operated by an Airbus A340 in March 2010, saved around 400kg of fuel. This is equivalent to 10 tanks of fuel for an average sized car and saves approximately 1.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.”
The current routes are predefined and don’t take into account prevailing wind and weather conditions. These routes are not necessarily able to leverage sophisticated on-board avionics now available.
The idea is that airlines will be able to assess and update flight paths in near real-time—taking not the shortest, but the most efficient route, according to the consultant cited above.
“Winds rule” is the axiom that airlines follow in finding the most efficient flight paths— ride on tail-winds and avoid head-winds. For a long-haul flight, a predetermined path may be longer by upwards of an hour if the winds are not favourable, increasing flight times and fuel consumption. “That’s a lot more fuel, and bad for schedules,” he said.
In a separate development, on 15 July, Deutsche Lufthansa AG started the world’s first daily commercial passenger flight using biofuel. The four return daily flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt will use a biofuel blend using 50% hydro-processed esters and fatty acids, according to statements by plane maker Airbus SAS and Lufthansa.