The first transatlantic “green” flight


Air France announced that a French Boeing 747-400ER aircraft undertook the first transatlantic “green” flight. The aircraft flew as part of a demonstration of procedures and technologies that were optimized at all stages in order to ensure a reduction of noise and CO2 emissions levels.

This flight took place on the 6th of April 2010. An American Airlines Boeing 767-300 followed the same route 24 hours later. These flights represent the result of the collaboration between the airlines that perform transatlantic air flights: the French Aeronautic Authority (DSNA), NATS, NAV Portugal, US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European organization SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) and Air France.

During the 9.5 hour flight from the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris to Miami airport, the cabin crew made use of specific procedures in order to improve the efficiency of the aircraft features. These optimized procedures, run by all the stakeholders involved in this project, resulted in the reduction of fuel consumption by two to three tons, while the CO2 emissions were cut by six to nine tons.

Due to these procedures the carrier also managed to improve the taxiing times at both airports, which was made possible by the improved coordination between Charles de Gaulle Airport and the U.S. FAA from the Miami airport. The Air France aircraft performed a continuous climb in the takeoff phase, which was coordinated by DSNA, the French DGAC air traffic control authority. During the cruise phase both altitude and airspeed were optimized in order to reduce fuel consumption. All these exercises were coordinated with the help of the control towers from France (DSNA), Great Britain (NATS), Portugal (NAV) and the US (FAA). The landing was linear and was synchronized by the air traffic control units from the US. During both landing and takeoff, the procedures also had an important role in minimizing the noise levels by up to 7dB.

It is estimated that once all these techniques are conducted on all of the Air France transatlantic flights, the pollution will be reduced by 135 000 tons per year, while the fuel savings will amount to approx. 43 000 tons.
This project is part of the international AIRE (Atlantic Interoperability Initiative to Reduce Emissions) program, which is a joint undertaking of the European Commission and the US FAA, coordinated in Europe by SESAR.

For the future, it seems that cost reduction will not be the only consideration and that engineers will also focus on non-polluting energy sources. Boeing is investing in this domain and they have already come up with a solution – Boeing Phantom Eye. This is a new aircraft that uses hydrogen as fuel. It basically needs water to fly, so it reflects exactly what “green flying” is all about.

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