Faster, fuel-saving flights soon

Long-haul international flights flying above the Arabian Sea or the Indian Ocean could shorten their journeys and cut down fuel bills from October.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) on Tuesday issued a circular stating it would provide green routes to flights operating in oceanic airspace, as part of a global initiative to cut down travel time, fuel consumption and carbon footprints.

Flights operating on these routes are referred to as green flights because their fuel consumption is less and they have a smaller carbon footprint.

While foreign airlines such as Emirates and Cathay Pacific are the only ones to have conducted trial flights on fuel-efficient routes, an official said Indian carriers could soon reap the benefits.

“We have made the service available. Now it is up to airlines to utilise it,” said Jayant Dasgupta, general manager, air traffic control (ATC), Mumbai. He added that the AAI had sent invites to Air India, Jet Airways and Indigo Airlines to operate flights on these routes. ATC stations at Mumbai and Chennai will man the flights as a large portion of the oceanic airspace falls under their jurisdiction. Airlines have been asked to seek permission at least a week before operating such flights.

The alternative routes, known as user preferred routes (UPR), are generated by the airlines’ flight-planning department. “The system selects the most economical flight route based on the kind of aircraft being used and the weather forecast,” said a senior official with the flight-planning department of an airline.

He added, “The system picks a route that would offer strong tailwinds (winds pushing a plane from behind). This makes the journey quicker and results in less fuel being burnt.”

Trial UPR flights, which began in July 2011, have already shown benefits. According to AAI, 1,031 green flights operated until February 2013 resulted in approximate fuel saving of 218.572 tonne and emission reduction of 6,885.018 tonne. A projection for the rest of the summer, which ends in October, shows that 6,200 UPR flights will be operated during this period, reducing carbon emissions by 4.17 lakh kg.


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