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Industry Trials Revolutionary Fuel-Saving Proposals

by Jason Gorringe,, London

16 September 2011

The International Air Transport Association has announced the successful implementation of the iFlex fuel-saving concept in a first trial held between Johannesburg, South Africa, and Atlanta, United States.

The iFlex concept provides for a greater and more flexible choice of routes on long-haul operations which cross multiple flight information regions. Its first trial showed that it could produce its aims in delivering shorter flight times, improved fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions while maintaining safety.

With iFlex, airlines will be able to fly more optimum routings that take maximum advantage of wind conditions. While airlines have historically planned flights considering wind conditions, air traffic management restrictions often limited flexibility within fixed corridors on parts of routings. The innovation that iFlex will bring, according to IATA, is the flexibility to extend this practice consistently across the entire journey.

Delta Air Lines reported that the implementation of the iFlex concept between Johannesburg and Atlanta resulted in average time saving per flight of 8 minutes, equating to 900 kg of fuel and 2.9 tonnes of CO2. Annualized and on the basis of two daily flights, this translates to savings of some 100 hours of flight, 690 tonnes of fuel and a reduction of 2,150 tonnes of CO2 emitted per aircraft.

A more flexible routing structure also provides a safety benefit in that airlines have more options to avoid adverse weather. Routing decisions can be taken at the planning stage to avoid potential tactical en-route deviations that can significantly increase controller and pilot workload. The additional benefit of leveraging route flexibility to avoid weather is that it also can reduce the need for carriage of contingency fuel.

“This initiative demonstrates just what can be achieved when we work together as an industry to reduce aviation’s impact on the environment while at the same time enhancing efficiency and safety,” said Guenther Matschnigg, IATA Senior Vice President, Safety, Operations and Infrastructure. “We look forward to future successes based on this first trial.”

According to the IATA, the first trial of iFlex did not result in alterations to existing air traffic management procedures, separation standards or communication, navigation or surveillance requirements. In certain areas, short cuts (direct routings) given by different air traffic control authorities, on a day-to-day basis, were formalized. This formalization provides better situational awareness for all airspace users.

The iFlex initiative is the culmination of eight months of work between IATA, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO), the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), (Dakar FIRs), Ghana CAA (Accra FIR), Trinidad and Tobago CAA (Piarco FIR), SNA-Antilles Guyane (Rochambeau Cayenne FIR), ASA - Cabo Verde (SAL FIR), Delta Air Lines and Emirates Airline.

TAGS: aviation

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