Fixed ground power should ideally be prioritised over other electrical sources for aircraft at airports, recommends a collaborative code of practice newly drawn up by UK air transport representatives.

Designed as part of the broad 'Sustainable Aviation' strategy to reduce emissions, the code lays out a hierarchy of preferential power sources - with fixed ground at the top, followed by air start vehicles, auxiliary power units, and engines - for departing aircraft.

"We can use this to reinforce the vision of absolute minimum APU use," says British Airways environmental strategy director Dean Plumb. "It benefits not just the UK but wherever the tentacles of our route network go."

Analysis performed at London Stansted three years ago revealed that only 50% of aircraft were plugging into fixed ground-power outlets. Stansted head of environment Andy Jefferson says that several aircraft, despite using the outlets, would also keep their APUs running.

He says the assessment revealed that operators were "concerned about reliability", and subsequent work traced this to interruptions caused by the weight of the fixed-power socket pulling the electrical cable out. This led to a redesign of the Boeing 737 power receptacle.

Stansted Airport also introduced a hotline with which pilots could request ground power, which Jefferson says is "working really well". The overall result has been a "marked improvement" in fixed-power use to around 90%.

Jefferson says that, at a large airport, the potential fuel savings could be of the order of 120t per day.

UK trade organisation ADS is supporting the 'Sustainable Aviation' programme. Aviation and environment manager Kevin Morris stresses that co-operation has been essential in understanding issues within the various sectors.

"This initiative has brought together airlines, airports, [air navigation service] NATS and manufacturers via ADS," he says. "This is so important in our industry, which is such a complex one."

The fixed-power issue is the second of four which will be combined into a single code of practice for departing flights.

It has been preceded by a similar guidance covering taxiing with fewer engines operating - also heavily trialled at Stansted, in co-operation with EasyJet - while future stages will address continuous-climb departures and collaborative decision-making. The complete report is expected to be available by April 2010.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news