Air New Zealand and JAL to trial trans-Pacific flight planning initiatives to reduce fuel and emissions
Wed 27 Aug 2008 – Air New Zealand and Japan’s JAL Group have announced they will be trialling separate initiatives that enable more efficient routing of aircraft across the Pacific, saving fuel and therefore emissions. JAL started trials of the User Preferred Route system two weeks ago on flights between Japan and Hawaii, and Air New Zealand will conduct a test flight between Auckland and San Francisco on September 12 as part of the ASPIRE initiative. Meanwhile, Air New Zealand says its biofuel test flight is on course to take place before the end of the year.
The User Preferred Route (UPR) planning system plots a unique flight path for each aircraft instead of following the conventional approach of flying along predetermined aviation routes set by air traffic controllers. Depending upon the prevailing weather conditions at the time, UPR allows an airline to fly along what it judges to be the most efficient route for each type of aircraft used. The system helps to improve operational efficiency by providing each aircraft with an optimal flight path and shortening flight times.
JAL says technical advances in aircraft devices and ATC systems have made it easier to more accurately pinpoint an aircraft’s position in the air. The trials follow continuous safety examinations of using UPR on Japan-Hawaii routes that have been conducted by the US FAA and the Japanese transport ministry since November 2007.
JAL will trial UPR on scheduled and charter flights on four separate routes between Japan and Hawaii, totalling approximately 4,700 one-way flights per year. If UPR was to be used on all such flights, JAL estimates it could reduce fuel consumption by about 1.93 million litres annually, resulting in savings of 4,700 tons of CO2 emissions and $1.65 million in fuel costs.
Air New Zealand’s B777 test flight, named ASPIRE 1, will have all practical operational restraints – including air traffic congestion control vectoring, air traffic fixed route structure, procedures, flow restriction and airline restraints – removed. With the involvement of partners Airways New Zealand, the US FAA and Airservices Australia, the flight will operate under optimum flight planning conditions.
ASPIRE (Asia and South Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions) was formed last year, with the goal, says the airline, of making commercial air travel more environmentally sustainable.
“By operating under optimum planning conditions, we will be able to demonstrate how many millions of tonnes of fuel and carbon emissions can be saved by airlines globally if they are permitted to utilize concepts and technologies in flight efficiency in all phases of commercial flight,” said Air New Zealand’s General Manager Airline Operations, Captain David Morgan.
“ASPIRE 1 further demonstrates Air New Zealand’s commitment to sustainable air travel, following on from our involvement in the tailored arrivals initiative into San Francisco, a number of fuel savings measures we’ve implemented and our biofuel aspirations.”
Morgan confirmed the airline’s test flight using a biofuel blend in one of the four Rolls-Royce engines of a Boeing 747-400 aircraft is on course to take place in the last quarter of the year.
Sourced from sustainable jatropha curcas plants grown in South-East Africa and India, quantities of the biofuel are currently being refined in the US and will then be sent to Rolls-Royce for testing and approvals. The plant grows to around three metres high, has high water efficiency and produces seeds that contain inedible lipid oil that is used to produce fuel, with each seed creating between 30-40% of its mass in oil. Jatropha can be grown in a range of difficult conditions, including arid and non-arable areas.
By 2013, Air New Zealand says it expects to use at least one million barrels of environmentally sustainable fuel annually, meeting at least 10% of its needs.
Morgan claims the airline’s various fuel-saving initiatives led to a reduction of 90,963 tonnes of CO2 emissions between August 2004 and March 2008. “We are now using 36 million litres less fuel on an annual basis compared to when we started this programme, and this is delivering a saving of approximately $43 million each year,” he said.