Fuel accounts for up to 40% of the total expenditures for aircraft operations. Given that fuel comprises such a large part of operating costs, creating an effective strategy for tracking fuel consumption can result in an immediate return on investment and could lower fuel costs for airlines around the world.
Many airlines have adopted new data-based technology that optimizes aircraft performance and reduces fuel consumption. These tools can help organizations take control of operating costs and play a significant role in fuel management.
The industry is only beginning to apply technology that connects aircraft with real-time data. This type of fuel consumption management requires both a technical and human component. These components, when combined with flight planning information, provide in-depth analysis and tracking which identifies savings opportunities. With real-time data, a pilot can make immediate adjustments to conserve fuel.
An aircraft’s performance is affected by airspace congestion. Real-time updates on traffic and calculations on the estimated time of arrival produce an optimal speed, so flights can avoid wasting fuel in while flying in holding patterns.
Three-dimensional data input of traffic flow and density, weather, and specifics of the aircraft, added to wind speed, air pressure, temperature, and humidity creates a more dynamic model. To achieve this, carriers transmit real-time weather data from the aircraft to systems on the ground, allowing pilots to adjust according to the flying conditions the plane encounters. Making these adjustments for weather conditions ultimately optimizes the use of fuel.
With these dynamic flight path optimization systems, a continuous data flow is created. The aircraft collects information on airspace traffic, weather conditions, and the status of its systems and sends it to the ground station. The ground station re-calculates the aircraft’s optimal height, speed and path based on the new information from the plane, as well as from external sources like weather forecasters, air traffic controllers, and even other aircraft. The optimized flight path, plus the updates, are sent back to the aircraft and are fed directly into the aircraft’s flight systems. After coordination with air traffic control, the pilot adjusts the flight path.
This dynamic perspective can also reduce delays and the potential of passenger compensation for late arrivals or cancellations.
Increasingly, powerful satellite communications, as well as the evolution of 4G and 5G communication, make a dynamic approach possible. Ground stations capable of re-calculating and optimizing an airline’s entire airborne fleet need this bandwidth to transmit information.
The idea of real-time data connectivity can be utilized by start-ups and well-known aircraft carriers. However, the aviation industry is only starting to recognize the potential of working with real-time data to make immediate adjustments to lower fuel costs. Developing a strategy using a dynamic approach, when combined with flight planning, provides airlines with an in-depth tracking tool which identifies fuel use and savings opportunities. Using these tools creates a comprehensive plan to save fuel no matter what the flight situation.
Vice President of Market Intelligence