Efficiencies gained through operational improvements can make a big difference. At every step of a plane’s operations there are opportunities to reduce fuel burn and consequently, emissions.
Airlines are saving fuel through more efficient procedures and weight reduction measures. These can range from ensuring the plane’s engines are clean to developing and using new arrivals procedures. Some airlines taxi to the runway using just one engine instead of two.
On the ground
When parked at airport gates, aircraft must be powered to provide air conditioning and electricity and also to start the engines. Aircraft are equipped with a small generator in the tail called an auxiliary power unit (APU). A large number of airports are now equipping their gates with fixed electrical ground power and pre-conditioned air, allowing pilots to switch off the APU, saving fuel and noise while on the ground.
Airports are also working to make ground service equipment (baggage loading devices, catering trucks, passenger buses) more energy efficient, using natural gas or electricity.
As aircraft taxi from the gate to the runway, there are techniques in operation, such as single-engine taxiing, or in development, such as self-driving devices, which enable aircraft to reach the runway without using full engine power.
Airports, airlines and air navigation service providers are also working together on so-called ‘green departures’ where aircraft can take off and climb at a steady rate to reach the most efficient phase of flight – the cruise – faster.