Airplanes can save fuel, time and emissions by better surfing in the wind

Directing transatlantic flights to make better use of favorable winds at altitude can save fuel, time, and waste.

New research shows that airlines can save fuel and reduce emissions on transatlantic flights by doing a better ride on jet streams.

Researchers at the University of Reading found that commercial flights between New York and London last winter could use 16 percent less fuel if they made better use of high-altitude winds.

The new satellites will soon remain at a safe distance from each other, allowing more accurate tracking of transatlantic flights. This opportunity could allow aircraft to be more agile on the runways to more accurately track favorable tail winds and avoid winds, offering the aviation sector a cheaper and faster way to reduce emissions than technological advances.

Cathie Wells, Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Reading and lead author of the study, said: “Existing transatlantic air routes mean that planes emit more fuel and more carbon dioxide than they need.

“Although winds have been taken into account to some extent when planning routes, points such as reduced flight costs are now given higher priority than fuel combustion and pollution minimization.”

Professor Paul Williams, an meteorologist at the University of Reading and co-author of the new study, said: “Upgrading to more efficient aircraft or switching to biofuels or batteries can significantly reduce emissions, but it will be costly and take decades to achieve.

“Simple airway adjustments are cheaper and can bring immediate benefits,” he said. This is important because less emissions are urgently needed to reduce the future effects of climate change. ”

A new study published today Environmental Research Letters, Analyzed 35,000 flights in both directions between New York and London from 1 December 2019 to 29 February 2020. The team compared the fuel used during these flights to the fastest route possible by flying east or around at the time. jet flow air currents.

Scientists have found that better use of winds will save an average of about 200 kilometers of fuel per flight, adding a reduction to an average of 6.7 million kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions during the winter. The average fuel economy per flight was 1.7% when flying west to New York and 2.5% when flying east to London.

The study was led by the University of Reading in collaboration with the UK Earth Observation Center, the University of Nottingham and Poll AeroScience Ltd.

At present, aviation is responsible for about 2.4% of all human carbon emissions, and this figure is growing. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and countries around the world have responded by formulating policies to increase the fuel efficiency or waste disposal of international flights, but many of these actions are based on technological advances and are therefore expensive and slow.

Climate change can have a major impact on air travel, with previous Reading studies showing that flights will experience two or three times stronger outdoor mixes if waste is not cut.

Reference: January 25, 2021, Environmental Research Letters.
DOI: 10.1088 / 1748-9326 / abce82

Funding: Doctoral education supported by the Research Council of Engineering and Physical Sciences

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