Attention to detail delivers an eco-friendly “Perfect Flight”

13 July 2012 Feature story

For its eco-efficient “Perfect Flight” from Toronto to Mexico City in June, Airbus examined every possible aspect of reducing fuel consumption with the A319 aircraft utilised in this demonstration – from installing lighter-weight carpets in the cabin to cleaning and waxing the exterior fuselage to minimise drag.   

“When you’re working to reduce emissions and save fuel, every little bit helps,” said Keith Bushell, the UK stakeholder manager for Airbus Environmental Affairs. “We focused on combining all best practices in moving toward the ‘perfect flight.’” 

Bushell discussed the milestone Air Canada flight, as well as what is needed to make air transportation even more environmentally efficient, during a seminar at the Airbus-sponsored Innovation Zone at this week’s Farnborough Airshow.  The “Perfect flight” demonstration in June – which combined Airbus’ already eco-efficient A319 with the use of alternative sustainable fuels and the most modern air traffic management system practices to maximise jetliner performance – resulted in a 40 per cent carbon emissions reduction compared to a standard flight. 

Operating with fuel incorporating a 50 percent blend of used cooking oil, the Air Canada A319 flown across North America received air traffic management guidance that enabled it to take a more direct route, while using reduced takeoff thrust to decrease fuel consumption. The airliner also was flown at the most efficient altitude and speed during cruise, and employed only one engine for its ground taxi. 

This summer’s “Perfect Flight” was North America’s first, and it followed a similar demonstration last October with an Air France A321 operating between Toulouse and Paris’ Orly Airport – which cut emissions by 50 per cent compared to a regular flight on this route. 

The “Perfect Flight” achievements could become more commonplace as research and development continues into more efficient aircraft operations, sustainable fuel sources and improved air traffic management systems, Bushell said.  Implementing more modern air traffic management could eliminate four million hours of flight delays, save three billion gallons of fuel used by aircraft in holding patterns while aloft and during ground idling on the ground – eliminating 29 million metric tonnes of carbon emissions from the atmosphere.  

“With the right stakeholders, the right technology, and the right incentives, we can make great steps toward a cleaner, quieter and smarter aviation sector,” Bushell added.