Savings in fuel through prudent operations

Shed excess weight. That’s the new age business motto. And it works just as well for airlines which want to become lean, mean machines in the time off galloping ATF prices. And they could, if they take certain long term measures. Aviation experts suggest how to run a well-oiled airline despite the vagaries of oil prices and other turbulences. Besides cutting flights and routes, there are innovative methods to keep the weight down and fuel consumption less.

Operational efficiency: National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL) the merged entity of AI and IA , issued with the following directives to pilots for fuel conservation Kingfisher is taking certain steps.

Plan proper descent profile particularly at congested airports to avoid holding at lower altitudes. The higher you fly, the less fuel is burnt in a Jet engine Aircraft. That’s also why planes have winglets on them. They reduce and help the plane climb an additional 2,000 ft and lead it fuel savings of 3-4% per B737-700 flight.

Also, flying at an optimum speed rather than fast reduces fuel consumptions. Most airlines are following this now, though some pilots still fly low and fast. That’s disastrous as more fuel is consumed. For every 4,000 ft descent five percent fuel is consumed.

Avoid flying with gear down and full flaps. This increases the charge using up more fuel. During final approach not to push all the flaps out and just keep it a notch up. It could actually reduce fuel consumption by approx 300 kg per engine.

Adopt decelerated approaches to destinations where congestion is there. We stabilize approaches at 1,000 ft. Also, do a de-rated climb i.e. the plane is light there’s no need for a steep climb a shallow one will save fuel.

Use engine reverse at idle thrust on long run ways where admissible. Normally, full thrust is applied while landing. This burns 70% of take off thrust fuel. Of course, this can’t be done on shorter runways.

Start APU (auxiliary power unit) just before engine shutdown prior to gate. Encourage single engine taxi after landing. American Airlines reportedly saves $10-12 m annually like this. Kingfisher follows this too.

Monitor excess fuel up lift by crew. It’s endemic for AI pilots to carry extra fuel even when it is not needed, say sources. Modern jets burns 3-4% of the weight of additional fuel carried per hour of flight, i.e. for a two hour flight with 5,000 kg extra fuel, it takes 400 kg fuel to carry it. On the other hand, Jet Airways, says a pilot, is so strict about fuel, that if a pilot asks for extra fuel under normal conditions he is asked to give a written explanation. Accountability could help AI cut losses too.

Converting the heavy flight bags (around five kg) carried by each pilot into electronic ones like a laptop can also reduce over all weight. In the long run this would work out cheaper and lead to a paperless cockpit.

Act Smart in cabin: Kingfisher has reduced weight by decreasing the loading of water on its planes, be it for toilets, galleys etc. Light leather is used for seats instead of heavy cloth as some airlines do. Regular carriers could use bottles instead of coke cans, decrease magazines/newspapers, flush lavatories during delays to reduce take off weight do away with hot meals which need ovens, change steel and glass cutlery to plastic and go in for lighter drop down tables and beverages carts. Are these practical in a service sector? Each airline has to decide that.

Maintenance: Aircraft engineers suggest auxiliary power units (used for lights and AC) be switched of when the plane is on ground. APU consumes 200 liters of fuel an hour. Instead some Airlines now regularly use ground power units run on diesel; that is cheaper.