Airbus uses IT to bust waste
Airline manufacturer Airbus is deploying a blend of new technology and navigation computers to demonstrate a new procedure for oceanic airspace that saves fuel and reduces emissions during cruise.
The new procedure, currently being trialled, will enable aircraft to more easily perform altitude changes during cruise. Airbus engineers say this can significantly improve flight efficiency, which translates into the engines consuming less fuel and generating less green house gasses.
They add that every aircraft has a height at which it encounters optimum cruise efficiency and an aircraft ought to constantly adjust its flight path to take advantage of this.
They explain that as a plane burns its fuel, the aircraft's weight continuously decreases, meaning the aircraft should climb to maintain its optimum cruise efficiency. Additionally, favourable winds can be found at either higher or lower altitudes, which would further cut fuel usage.
This kind of manoeuvring is rarely possible over the oceanic waters, because of a lack of radar coverage and air-traffic control there.
Airbus SA spokesman Linden Birns says the company tested the concept near Iceland, over the North Atlantic Ocean, late last month.
Airbus deployed a company-owned A340 test aircraft and a Scandinavian Air System (SAS)-owned A330. He explains that Iceland was chosen due to its unique mid-Ocean location, combined with radar coverage, thus ensuring the complete safety of the trial.
During the test, the A340 performed several altitude changes, relative to the SAS A330, using a new aircraft system fitted on the A340 and including an Aviation Communication and Surveillance Systems traffic computer.
Using this system, the pilot received all flight identification and positioning information regarding surrounding aircraft on his navigation display.
This new system is based on Automatic Dependant Surveillance-Broadcast, an air-to-ground and air-to-air surveillance technology used to transmit aircraft information. Airbus is certifying the technology.
Birns says the demonstration was a significant step towards more flexible operations in an oceanic environment and was enabled by new aircraft technologies and more efficient pilot-air traffic controller collaboration.
"With the new technology, the flight crew can provide the controller with accurate information about their position relative to other aircraft," he says. "With the 'Cristal' in-trail-procedure, the controller will use this information to allow altitude changes with reduced separations, providing more climbing opportunities."