Singapore Airlines has successfully completed the world’s first multi-sector demonstration green flight, with fuel savings of more than 10 tonnes and a reduction in carbon emissions of more than 33 tonnes.
For the customers on board flight SQ11, it may have felt like a typical flight. But they were part of an important chapter in civil aviation.
The Boeing 747-400, which departed Los Angeles on 31 January, arriving in Singapore early this morning via Tokyo, had just completed one of the most environmentally efficient flights over the North Pacific.
The flight is the first multi-sector demonstration green flight to be carried out under the Asia and Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE) programme, which aims to promote environmental stewardship in the region.
Working with aviation authorities in Singapore, the US and Japan to ensure optimal air traffic conditions as well as employing a series of efficiency measures for all phases of the flight, SQ11 used around 6 per cent less fuel than normally required for a similar flight.
Final calculations show that 10,686 kg of fuel were saved as well as 33,769 kg of carbon emissions. This is above initial expectations for 10,000 kg of fuel to be saved and carbon emissions to be reduced by 31,300 kg.
“The route an aircraft takes, the altitude at which it flies and the weather it encounters all affect the amount of fuel it burns and the carbon dioxide emitted. Managing this effectively and in real time is therefore very important, for the operating carrier and the environment,” said Singapore Airlines’ Senior Vice-President Flight Operations Gerard Yeap.
To make this flight as environmentally friendly as possible, a comprehensive range of measures was implemented at every phase of the journey.
Prior to the flight, the aircraft underwent a special engine wash programme for all four engines (using recycled water) to optimise fuel efficiency. The airframe was also polished to minimise drag. These measures are over and above Singapore Airlines’ regular engine and airframe maintenance programmes.
To further reduce fuel consumption, ground electrical supply was used to power the aircraft while it was on the ground, instead of the plane’s auxiliary power unit.
To ensure that no more fuel was carried on board than necessary, the amount of fuel uplifted was fine-tuned half-an-hour before flight, ensuring a better match with the actual aircraft takeoff weight.
After takeoff, the aircraft was then given an unrestricted climb, which allowed it to reach its optimum cruising altitude expeditiously.
The bulk of the fuel savings, however, came from using a User Preferred Route (UPR) generated from the flight planning system Lido/Flight from Lufthansa Systems.
Captain Yeap explained, “Based on the latest weather at hand, the UPR is the most efficient route for the aircraft to fly on compared to an existing pre-determined route. By doing so, we were able to achieve these impressive fuel savings and emissions reductions.”
In addition, as the aircraft approached Singapore Changi Airport early this morning, the pilots made a smooth uninterrupted descent and approach to the runway, instead of the normal step-descent approach.
Aside from conserving fuel, the Continuous Descent Approach also cuts down on noise
Upon landing brakes instead of full reverse thrust were applied to slow the aircraft, and as it was taxiing to its parking gate, one of the four engines was shut down to further conserve fuel.
“This ASPIRE flight demonstrates that substantial fuel savings and reductions in carbon emissions can be achieved when stakeholders in the aviation industry all work together,” Captain Yeap said.
“Singapore Airlines is committed to playing our part for the environment. We will continue to work with governments, regulatory authorities, manufacturers and suppliers with the aim of a sustainable future for the industry,” he added.
The ASPIRE demonstration flight was not only kind to the environment but also provided tangible benefits for customers, with the total flight time reduced by about 30 minutes.