New iFlex airspace routes over Africa and the South Atlantic stand to reduce Emirates' emissions by over 13,000 tonnes
Tue 3 July 2012 – After two years of negotiations with 34 different states and their air traffic and regulatory bodies, Emirates has secured 25 new airway structures across the African continent that will bring fuel and emission savings on its West African and Brazilian routes. The shortened air routes are the result of the airline’s participation in the IATA iFlex project, which is trialling new, low-density flexible airspace routes across continental Africa and into South America. Although the time savings per flight can be measured only in minutes, the total savings from flights between Dubai and Accra, Lagos, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are likely to amount to 4,200 tonnes of fuel and 13,200 tonnes of CO2 over the course of a year. Additional routes are expected to follow shortly and all airlines operating between the Gulf and West and Central Africa also stand to benefit from the initiative.
The iFlex programme was borne out of the increasing traffic flow between east and west, whereas traditional flows had been north and south, and had resulted in inefficient flight paths across continental Africa and into South America. In addition, as the direction of the winds in summer and winter alter significantly so the range of potential routings across Africa held great possibilities for reductions in flight times.
Emirates had been involved with IATA since 2003 in the development of ‘flexible tracks’ for aircraft operations and so was chosen by IATA for the iFlex initiative in 2010. Countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Togo, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo were involved in the negotiations, many of whom are not members of the international air navigation service providers organisation CANSO nor have regular contact between themselves on civil aviation matters.
The iFlex routings provide the savings by using optimal flight paths depending on daily conditions. As of this April, Emirates is already witnessing savings of 1,600kg of fuel per flight for its South American operations, with weekly savings of around 3.5 tonnes of fuel and 11 tonnes of CO2 emissions. From three minutes less flight time on each route to Brazil, outbound Dubai to Rio saved 657kg of fuel and to São Paulo 490kg. On the return flights, with seven minutes savings on each route, 1,123kg of fuel was saved from Rio to Dubai and 1,017kg from São Paulo. Similarly, on the Dubai-Lagos return, a total of 2,232kg of fuel from 17 minutes of saved flight time was realised and 2,762kg and 14 minutes saved on the Dubai to Accra round-trip.
Forecasting overall savings based on these figures, Emirates expects to save 1,199 tonnes of fuel and 3,779 tonnes of CO2 annually on the two routes to South America and an additional 3,000 tonnes of fuel and 9,452 tonnes of CO2 per year from the West African routes.
“Not unlike in sailing, an aircraft seeks to harness the strongest tailwinds or avoid the greatest headwinds in order to plot the best course,” commented Bob Everest, Emirates’ Vice President Flight Operations Support. “In addition to the financial savings, the greatest benefit of our iFlex initiative is to the customer both in shorter flight times and a smaller environmental footprint. Also, our fellow airlines around the world can now utilise our negotiated routings as they are publicly available as established, authorised routings.”
Emirates’ work on the iFlex programme is continuing and is in discussions with Canada, Iceland and Russia on implementing additional airway structures for polar routings between the Middle East and North America. The airline has also been part of the INSPIRE programme that aims to reduce fuel and emissions on routes across the Indian Ocean.