It may fly like a goose but it’s an Airbus A350 cruising in formation to save tonnes of carbon emissions.
Airbus on Tuesday performed the first long-haul demonstration of formation flying and saved more than six tonnes of CO2 emissions on a trip between its French home of Toulouse and Canada’s Montreal-Trudeau International Airport.
Airbus said the flight confirmed the potential for a fuel saving of more than 5 percent on long-haul flights if aircraft fly in a formation similar to that used by migrating geese.
It also showed the savings could be achieved without compromising safety, it added.
Using a principle seen in the distinctive V formation of large migrating birds, the following aircraft used specially-developed flight control systems to stay in the wake updraft of the proceeding A350.
This allowed it to reduce engine thrust and cut fuel consumption.
The flight was part of the fello’fly demonstrator project launched within subsidiary Airbus UpNext in 2019 to investigate biomimicry, the design and production of materials, structures and systems inspired by nature.
“This demonstration flight is a concrete example of our commitment to making our decarbonization roadmap a reality,” said Airbus chief technical officer Sabine Klauke.
“It also speaks to how collaboration across the industry will be key to making this happen.
“We have received a strong level of support for this project from our airline and air traffic partners, plus regulators.
“The opportunity to get this deployed for passenger aircraft around the middle of this decade is very promising. Imagine the potential if fello’fly was deployed across the industry.”
Pilots from SAS Scandinavian Airlines and Frenchbee were on board to witness the flight, which was made possible through collaboration between Airbus and various air traffic management organizations with the support of French civil aviation authority DGAC.
The flight was met in Montreal by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) officials, with ICAO secretary general Juan Carlos Salazar said it reflected the “incredible diversity of air transport innovations now being realized to meet the sector’s targets and ensure flying becomes more and more sustainable”.
The manufacturer said the next step was to get the support of authorities so the new operational concept could be certified.