David Learmount/LONDON

British Airways could accrue annual fuel savings of more than 4 million kg (8.8 million lb) and cut London-Tokyo journey times by an average 15min eastbound and 35min westbound if it is approved to use the new Arctica 1 route.

Although Arctica 1 has yet to be cleared for regular scheduled use, BA conducted a trial Boeing 747-400 flight on the routeing last month. The flight, carrying more than 390 paying passengers and VIPs including the Federal Aviation Authority of Russia's first deputy director Victor Galkin, "went like clockwork", says BA flight technical projects manager Gerry Selves.

Despite tracking north of the Novaya Zemlya islands, reaching a maximum latitude of 76í north, there is no shortage of usable airfields in northern Siberia and far eastern Russia, says Selves, making it technically safe for twin-engined aircraft equipped for extended- range twin-engined operations (ETOPS).

The primary navigation aids outbound were the aircraft's inertial reference systems and GPS satellite navigation was primary for the return. Air traffic control was procedural, using high-frequency (HF) radio communications for contact with Bodo in Norway, and Murmansk and Norilsk in Russia.

Satellite communications with Murmansk were also established, and VHF radio provided links with Khatanga, where Arctica 1 rejoins the established route network. Eventually, the route is expected to be ATC-monitored using automatic dependent surveillance, says BA.

The ability to choose existing routeing or Arctica 1, depending on the upper wind patterns, will provide time and fuel benefits, says Selves. The London-Tokyo track distance using Arctica 1 on the maiden flight was recorded at 10,010km (5,406nm) and the time taken was 10h 41min.

Source: Flight International