Sunday, July 14, 2024

How Emirates pilots reduce fuel and emissions during operations

Flying smarter and maintaining a strong focus on minimising fuel consumption and emissions starts in the cockpit. Emirates embarked on implementing “Green Operating Procedures” (‘Green Ops’)*  in 2016, taking a multi-pronged approach that looks for opportunities to reduce on-ground and in-flight fuel use, in addition to providing pilots with the necessary education, awareness, data analytics and technology to help them manage their flights as efficiently as possible.

Led by an internal cross-functional Operations Efficiency Steering Group, the airline aims to mitigate unnecessary fuel burn and emissions wherever possible, while ensuring the highest safety standards embraced by Emirates are never compromised. In the last financial year 2023-2024, ‘Green Ops’ and other operating initiatives helped Emirates reduce fuel burn by more than 48,000 tonnes and carbon emissions by over 151,000 tonnes.

Captain Hassan Al Hammadi, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President Flight Operations said: “We’re proud of the work done across the Flight Operations team, and the contributions of our pilots in significantly reducing fuel consumption and emissions. This could have only happened through collective discipline, commitment, and dedication to sustainable aviation practices in the cockpit, all while maintaining the highest levels of safety. We’ve equipped our pilot community with the latest tools and applications to monitor and review their flight performance, helping them to improve their awareness of how their flying techniques impact fuel consumption and emissions. We’ll continue to invest in cutting-edge technologies and accelerate solutions that yield long-term environmental benefits.”

Here are some of the key operational measures taken in the air and on the ground wherever operationally feasible during each Emirates flight to reduce unnecessary fuel burn and emissions:

Discretionary Extra Fuel

The Commander of the flight bears the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that each flight uplifts a sufficient quantity of fuel for safe operations. Depending on the assessment of prevailing operational circumstances, the Captain may choose to uplift extra fuel beyond the minimum stipulated by regulatory standards. This initiative aims to encourage the Captain to uplift extra fuel based on well-founded judgment and legitimate operational needs. The goal is to furnish Captains with pertinent data and analysis, aiding them in making more informed and precise decisions regarding the uplift of extra fuel. With this initiative uplift of discretionary extra fuel has reduced significantly.

Flight speed optimization

An aircraft’s speed directly impacts its fuel consumption and emissions. To accurately calculate the optimised speed for a flight, a number of considerations are made based on a thorough calculation that seeks to minimize total operating costs while maintaining adherence to departure and arrival schedules. Depending on prevailing operating conditions, pilots may have the opportunity to adjust speed to decrease fuel consumption without compromising the integrity of the flight schedule. This inflight speed management is an integral part of all Emirates’ pilot SOPs.

Reduced flap landing

Aircraft have the flexibility to land using a variety of flap configurations. Emirates pilots carefully assess and select the flap setting that minimizes aerodynamic drag, reducing fuel consumption as a result. This decision is made without compromising safety and is adapted to different runway conditions.

Idle reverse thrust

As soon as the aircraft is on the ground, pilots have the option to use different levels of reverse thrust, providing backwards thrust to decelerate the aircraft. Based on prevailing conditions and runway length, Emirates pilots will prioritise the use of idle reverse thrust to reduce fuel consumption. 

Reduced engine taxi-in (RETI)

During ground taxiing after landing, aircraft don’t require power from all engines. Emirates pilots take advantage of every opportunity to engage in reduced engine taxiing by shutting down one or two engines (depending on the aircraft’s engine configuration) upon landing. This practice is implemented without compromising safety or operational efficiency. Since it was introduced, the use of RETI has increased by almost seven fold.

Optimised flight routings

A pioneer and early adopter of flight planning efficiencies, Emirates has been using flexible flight routes since 2003. Working directly with air traffic control and other industry bodies across its network, the airline works hard to optimise each route flown between cities. Optimising routings enables Emirates to carry and use less fuel on flights, resulting in lower emissions. It also means time saved for customers.

Technology and Innovation – Flight Pulse

Emirates introduced FlightPulse (collaboratively developed with GE Digital Aviation Services), an extensive self-service data analytics tool to all its pilots, incorporating crucial elements of operational data and analytics pertaining to the safety and fuel efficiency performance of each flight. This tool has significantly transformed the monitoring of flight operations data.  The rollout of FlightPulse has fostered improved collaboration between Flight Operations management and the pilot community at Emirates, ultimately enhancing safety and efficiency of flights. This initiative demonstrates the airline’s commitment to industry innovation through technology adoption to improve fuel efficiency.

Centre of Gravity Optimisation

The aircraft’s centre of gravity (CG) significantly influences the safety and efficiency of a flight. Loading the aircraft at the optimised Centre of Gravity ensures proper weight and balance, increasing its aerodynamic efficiency which ultimately saves fuel. Emirates has a rigorous policy of loading aircraft to come as close as possible to the ideal trim line to minimise fuel burn.

APU Usage

One way Emirates reduces fuel consumption on ground is by minimising use of the aircraft auxiliary power unit (APU), instead using the electrical ground power unit (GPU) in order to reduce emissions. APU use has been reduced by more than 30% since this initiative was introduced.

Adjusted potable water uplift

Emirates uses an exacting scientific method of calculating potable water required for a flight to reduce weight for more efficient fuel uplift. Each flight uploads the required amount of potable water without compromising on passenger comfort.

*“Green Operations” (‘Green Ops’) is a term used internally by flight operations personnel and pilots at Emirates as part of a program which incorporates a number of measures to reduce fuel burn and carbon emissions.

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