United Airlines marks World Environment Day with 'Green Corridor' transatlantic flights
United Airlines 777 (photo: Boeing)
Fri 4 June 2010 – United Airlines is to operate a return transatlantic between Frankfurt and Chicago tomorrow (June 5) which will use state-of-the-art flight planning to reduce the carbon emissions of the flights by around three percent compared to normal operations on the route. The commercial flights, using a Boeing 777, will coincide with the United Nations-designated World Environment Day. The airline expects to save nearly 2,900kg of fuel and around 9,000kg of CO2 emissions on what it describes as the ‘Green Corridor’ demonstration flights. United will use a flight planning system to compute optimum routing, altitudes and speeds based on winds and aircraft performance capabilities, as well as fuel-saving measures on the ground.
The airline will utilize Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) technology and new procedures based on the Future Air Navigation System, and a variable cruise speed approach will be the largest component of the test.
Joe Burns, United’s Managing Director of Technology and Flight Tests, told the Chicago Tribune that instead of flying at a precise altitude, the aircraft will vary its height by as much as 3,000 feet to choose the most efficient cruise altitude. “A thousand feet can make a big difference in our fuel burn,” he told the newspaper.
Overall, the flights will study the environmental benefits, the costs of leveraging planned technological enhancements, applying aircraft separation procedures and surveillance standards in the busiest corridor of airspace across the North Atlantic. This airspace combines a flexible transition corridor from continental Europe aligned with the oceanic airspace over southern Greenland and the east coast of Canada. United is partnering on the flights with NAV Canada and NATS, the Canadian and UK air navigation service providers.
“We are focused on effecting a permanent change in flight planning and routing over the North Atlantic to achieve significant environmental impact improvements,” said Joseph Kolshak, United Airlines’ Senior Vice President of Operations. “We expect this effort will serve as a model for how cooperation and coordination can generate meaningful progress in our drive to protect the environment and improve our operational efficiency.”
United will also use external power and air conditioning at the gates to limit the use of the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit and will coordinate with Chicago O’Hare’s ground control to minimize taxi time to the runway, thereby reducing taxi fuel burn.
The airline said it is conducting the flights as part of several efforts aimed at advancing technological and process improvements that will contribute to environmental sustainability and increased fuel savings. On April 30, United became the first US airline to operate a commercial passenger flight using a synthetic jet fuel blend (see story).
The United Nations has just launched its ‘Greening the Blue’ campaign as part of a commitment to move towards carbon neutrality across its operations. Travel accounts for around 50-60% of total greenhouse gas emissions in most UN organizations, and in some cases up to 90%. In 2008, 31 UN organizations implemented measures to reduce the carbon footprint of their travel.