While some of the weight saving measures taken by airlines to save fuel and reduce CO2 emissions would be fairly obvious to most people, such as lighter seats and trolleys or using composite materials, others require a little bit of creative thinking.
You wouldn’t think that an aircraft’s paint job would be an area where airlines can save weight, but it actually makes more of a difference than you might realise. The fuselage of a painted Boeing 747-400, for example, typically carries about 250 kilograms' worth of paint. Aside from making the aircraft look good, it performs an important role protecting the fuselage.
KLM’s engineering and maintenance department took on the challenge of reducing the weight added by the livery paint and, with the help of German supplier, Mankiewicz, were able to develop a new paint system that reduces the weight of the paint by 15%, through applying more, but thinner layers.
The paint developed also has other advantages. It is also chrome-free and can be washed by soap and water alone, cutting out the need for the use of additional solvent chemicals, which can have a detrimental effect on the local environment.
Of course, paint is not the only area where KLM have managed to make weight savings. As well as the usual lighter seats and trolleys, KLM was the first airline to implement polypropylene trays, which not only reduces weight but also has less environmental impact during production. In addition, Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo introduced a range of new lightweight cargo nets made from a fibre called ultra-high molecular-weight polyethelyne which reduces the weight of the nets by 50%.