A United Airlines Boeing 747-400 flight from Sydney to San Francisco on 14 November concluded "fuel-optimised" demonstrations in 2008 for the Asia and South Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE), but regulators would like to see further participation next year.

The Federal Aviation Administration, Airservices Australia and Air New Zealand signed up to ASPIRE in February in a move designed to accelerate the development of air traffic control procedures designed to reduce emissions. The FAA says northern and western Pacific service providers and Asian flag carriers are likely to join ASPIRE, and more demonstration flights may follow as early as the third quarter of 2009.

United Airlines 747

United's flight data will be analysed along with results from Air New Zealand and Qantas, which participated in similar demonstrations on 12 September and 22 October. ANZ's Boeing 777 flight from Auckland to San Francisco burned 4,542 litres (1,200USgal) less fuel and emitted 11t less carbon monoxide than normal.

Given ideal weather conditions, United expects it will have saved as much as 7,570 litres of fuel, or about 5-6% of the burn on a normal Sydney-San Francisco flight. Overall, the carrier says it would expect 10-15% reductions from normal if NextGen ATC technology were applied across the USA.

As with ANZ and Qantas, United was to receive priority clearance from ATC for taxiing and departure to help achieve savings. In addition, the airline wiould have access to restricted airspace outside Sydney and possibly en route, and use a tailored arrival instead of a step-down approach. Once at cruising altitude, technology in the cockpit and at ATC also permits in-flight rerouting by speeding analysis of updated weather reports to take advantage of tailwinds or other conditions to follow a path determined by data collected within two hours of takeoff.

United notes that every flight obviously cannot receive priority taxiing and departure, but the purpose of the fuel-optimised flight is to demonstrate the savings that would occur if there were no delays.

Source: Flight International