BA to conduct transatlantic optimised-flight trials

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British Airways is to participate in a four-month trial aimed at improving operational efficiency of transatlantic flights.

The carrier will carry out 60 services between London Heathrow and North American destinations - westbound and eastbound - which will be tailored to minimise delay and optimise the flight profile.

Under a programme designated Topflight each service will bring together gate-to-gate efficiency practices, saving some 500kg in fuel-burn.

Flights will use such strategies as reduced-engine taxiing, continuous-climb departures, direct routing and required time of arrival.

Aircraft will employ variable Mach and use an optimum step-climb on the oceanic leg, before conducting a continuous-descent approach.

British Airways has previously taken part in exercises to refine flight profiles, including a project in 2010 which involved optimising a single Heathrow-Edinburgh service.

UK air navigation provider NATS, which is heading Topflight, says the programme "will look to put into operational practice something whtat has only previously been possible in single, one-off flights".

The UK participants will co-operate with partners including air traffic control service Nav Canada.

NATS says that the programme will then extend to enable multiple optimised transatlantic flights to operate simultaneously.

"The aim is to prove that the concept is scalable and can be implemented for many flights at the same time, without penalising those in the surrounding airspace," it adds.

Topflight is being undertaken in association with the Single European Sky technical initiative SESAR.

SESAR Joint Undertaking executive director Patrick Ky says that, if the transatlantic trial is successful, the results "could have a profound impact on the way the aviation industry works in the future".