Airbus has completed a transatlantic formation flight to test the saving of fuel and CO2 emissions

 

Image: Airbus

Airbus has performed the first long-haul demonstration of formation flight in general air traffic (GAT) regulated transatlantic airspace with two A350 aircraft flying at three kilometers apart from Toulouse, France to Montreal, Canada.

The aircraft were greeted at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport. Over 6 tons of CO2 emissions were saved on the trip, confirming the potential for more than a 5% fuel saving on long-haul flights.

The “final demonstration” test flight took place on 9 November 2021 involving two A350 test aircraft, MSN1 and MSN59, the former as the leader aircraft and the latter as the follower. This was made possible with flight control systems developed by Airbus which position the follower aircraft safely in the wake updraft of the leader aircraft allowing it to reduce engine thrust and reduce fuel consumption. A similar principle can be observed with large migrating birds such as geese, which fly together in a distinct V-shaped formation.

Pilots from Airbus partner airlines SAS Scandinavian Airlines and Frenchbee witnessed the transatlantic flight onboard as observers. The flight was made possible by Airbus and its air traffic management partners and navigation service providers (DSNA, NATS, NAV CANADA, Eurocontrol and IAA), with the support of the DGAC, who together proved that wake energy retrieval flight technology leveraged in a fello’fly flight can be achieved without compromising safety. The demonstration also shows how fello’fly operations could significantly boost environmental performance of commercial aircraft and contribute to the aviation industry’s de-carbonisation targets in the immediate term.

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