JSE-listed South African airline Comair reports that efforts to reduce its fleet’s fuel consumption are proving successful.
Comair joint CEO Erik Venter said at the Transport Forum’s Month of Transport Celebrations event, held at the University of Johannesburg earlier this month, that the airline operator had achieved a 23% reduction in fuel- burn for each seat since 2005.
He explained that the weight of the aircraft directly influences the amount of fuel consumed by the aircraft. Therefore, if the company reduced the weight of its aircraft, the amount of fuel consumed also decreased, resulting in cost savings, fuel savings, less waste and less pollution.
He said that the fuel savings were achieved through changes made to the operational procedures for its aircraft.
The airline reduced the weight and the amount of catering equipment and water loaded onto the aircraft before flights. The interior of the aircraft has also been upgraded to include lightweight seats.
Further, pilots and crew are now undertaking real-time assessments of the aircraft to establish the minimum amount of fuel that is needed for the flights.
“The last-minute update of the fuel weight enables the airline to avoid wasting fuel. We basically fill the aircraft only with the amount of fuel needed to make the flight, while keeping the usual reserve fuel on board as well. In the past, there was a surplus of fuel on board the aircraft,” said Venter.
In addition, the baggage-loading strategy for Comair’s aircraft has been optimised. “Baggage is now placed strategically to avoid increasing the aircraft’s fuel consumption,” he said.
Other priorities are airport design and air traffic management (ATM). Venter explained that an airport should be designed with fuel consumption in mind.
“Aircraft often need to taxi long distances to reach terminals, resulting in additional fuel consumption. “If an airport has some design flaws, such as terminals being too far from runways and parking bays, then vehicles transporting catering equipment, water and baggage also need to travel longer distances to reach the aircraft,” noted Venter.
He said that ATM could also help to increase fuel savings. “The less circling an aircraft has to do before landing, the more fuel it will save,” he added.
Meanwhile, other ATM and landing procedures, such as reduced vertical separation limits, performance-based navigation and continuous descent arrival, can be optimised to reduce fuel consumption.
Investigating Green Aircraft
Venter said that biofuels are an option for aircraft wanting to go green. Biofuels emit 80% less carbon dioxide than petroleum-based aviation fuel but, even though biofuels have been tested in aircraft, it has yet to be certified.
“Biofuel has its advantages but, at this stage, it is expensive and an extremely large investment into this alternative fuel will be needed. It will have to be integrated into existing fuel supply infrastructure to make it a viable option for airlines,” he said.
Further, Venter explained that design can reduce an aircraft’s carbon footprint by making it more efficient. However, it is expensive to redesign aircraft.
“When it comes to redesigning aircraft, a global investment of about
$1.5-trillion will be needed to make aircraft 20% more efficient by 2020,” said Venter.
One manufacturer that is redesigning its aircraft is Airbus. The Europe-based manufacturer introduced its new engine option, or Airbus A320neo, last year. This aircraft’s new high bypass ratio jet engines and wing design make it more efficient.
The aircraft has two energy efficient engine options available, namely aircraft engine manu- facturer CFM International’s Leap-X engine and technologies company Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100G PurePower engine.
Owing to these engines and Airbus’s large Sharklets wing tip devices, a 15% reduction in fuel consumption, 2 t of additional payload, up to 500 nm of increased range and lower operating costs, as well as reductions in engine noise and emissions, were possible.