Paris-based aeronautical data specialist Safety Line believes its OptiClimb flight-planning software can cut aircraft fuel consumption during the climb phase by up to 10%.

"As a pilot, I had the feeling to do something better during the climb than using the flight management computer," founder Pierre Jouniaux told FlightGlobal in an interview at Le Bourget.

Jouniaux – who remains Safety Line's majority shareholder, though Safran acquired a stake last month – explains that the standard procedure for pilots is to climb to cruising altitude at a constant speed, which has been determined during an aircraft's initial flight-test programme and is then applied for the entire fleet.

However, an aircraft's performance varies with age and the state of its engines.

Jouniaux argues that it is more efficient to fine-tune the speed at different altitudes depending on the individual aircraft's performance and weight and the prevailing weather conditions. The software uses tail number-specific performance data periodically downloaded from the aircraft's quick-access recorder.

To avoid increasing pilot workload, and to adopt a more refined climb-speed regime within existing operations, Safety Line's approach is to introduce two points during the climb where speed is adjusted. The altitudes and speeds at which changes are made depend on the prevailing flight conditions. However, Safety Line's commercial chief Francois Chazelle says the adjustments can easily be accommodated in an aircraft's existing FMC without any software change.

Safety Line provides the relevant information for each flight to airlines, which then hand it on to pilots as part of their flight-planning routine. Chazelle says OptiClimb requires a ground-based IT system, because the aircraft's FMC, electronic flightbags and other flight-planning laptops for pilots will not have sufficient computing data to complete the calculations.

Some 15 airlines have trialled the system. Air France-KLM budget unit Transavia France became the first user in 2015.

Jouniaux acknowledges that climb restrictions around busy airports – where departing aircraft may have to level off at intermediate altitudes before reaching cruise level – can reduce potential savings. But he says fuel savings between 5% and 10% during the climb phase can be achieved on 75-80% of flights.

Safran teamed with French airport operator Groupe ADP and sovereign investment fund BPI France to invest in Safety Line, which states its mission as "big data applied to aviation".

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Source: Cirium Dashboard