SAS claims lead in lean fuel operations

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Driven by a potent combination of industry recession, fuel prices and ecological pressures, airlines are looking for ways of saving fuel. SAS, which has been working since 2007 to refine new operational techniques, says airlines cannot wait for technological "hard" fixes, so they are having to be inventive with "soft" measures that can deliver results in the near term.

Working with Oxford Aviation Academy, Stockholm - formerly SAS Flight Academy - the airline is working to set global benchmarks for fuel-lean operational practises. The carrier says that fuel savings of 12.5% are possible, using a range of hard and soft techniques, and that a major European operator using them is reporting 4% savings, and an American carrier 5%.

Meanwhile OAA has developed a three-day course in pilot skills that are specific to getting the most actual tonne-kilometres out of every kilogramme of fuel. This consists of a day's theory, followed by two days in a full flight simulator for the type that the pilot flies in line service. OAA director of training Per de la Motte says the flight training organisation (FTO) envisages this course fitting in, ideally, at the end of a type rating, and he claims the cost would be recovered in fuel saved within a year.

SAS says the course involves a change in mindset for pilots, and the slaying of some operational sacred cows. For example putting on power to make up a few minutes on a schedule is almost always counterproductive, says the carrier, but unless they are appraised of the considerations surrounding decisions like that, pilots will continue to do it, believing it is right.

Flight International's David Learmount has "flown" two identical short sectors in an OAA Airbus A320 full flight simulator with the FTO's fuel-saving guru Capt Peter Fogtmann, on the first sector applying normal operational practises, and on the second applying all available soft fuel-saving techniques. The difference in fuel used was 18.4%. A detailed description of the techniques can be found in the Learmount blog.