May 27, 2008

If Llamas Had Wings, Etc., Etc.

This article about techniques used by airlines to improve fuel efficiency and save money caught my eye:

Drivers have long known that slowing down on the highway means getting more miles to the gallon. Now airlines are trying it, too adding a few minutes to flights to save millions on fuel. Southwest Airlines started flying slower about two months ago, and projects it will save $42 million in fuel this year by extending each flight by one to three minutes.

On one Northwest Airlines flight from Paris to Minneapolis earlier this week alone, flying slower saved 162 gallons of fuel, saving the airline $535. It added eight minutes to the flight, extending it to eight hours, 58 minutes.

That meant flying at an average speed of 532 mph, down from the usual 542 mph.

"It's not a dramatic change," said Dave Fuller, director of flight operations at JetBlue, which began flying slower two years ago.

But the savings add up. JetBlue adds an average of just under two minutes to each flight, and saves about $13.6 million a year in jet fuel. Adding just four minutes to its flights to and from Hawaii saves Northwest Airlines $600,000 a year on those flights alone.

United Airlines has invested in flight planning software that helps pilots choose the best routes and speeds. In some cases, that means planes fly at lower speeds. United estimates the software will save it $20 million a year.

The reason the article got my attention is because I am pretty firmly convinced of another technique being used, namely staying at cruising altitude a little bit longer than normal and then using a steeper descent angle to work into the landing circuit. The past couple flights I've been on have seemed to come down unusually hard when starting their initial descent, judging by the twinge in my stomach and by the sound of the air rushing over the wings.

You may laugh, but I'll bet it's true. Makes sense, anyway, and just because I'm phobic doesn't mean it's not happening......

(Speaking of laughter, I can hear the LMC - veteran of the Vomit Comet into Baghdad - guffawing from here.)

Posted by Robert at May 27, 2008 03:38 PM | TrackBack