Sharing the sky may help airlines save fuel and reduce CO2 emissions, said Airbus after the first long-haul demonstration of formation flight in general air traffic (GAT). This tryout saved over 6 tons of CO2 emissions on the trip, confirming the potential for more than a 5 percent fuel savings on long-haul flights.
The test flight took place on November 9, involving two A350 test aircraft, MSN1 and MSN59, that took off three kilometers apart. Its final objective was to help prove the viability of a decarbonization roadmap. “This demonstration flight is a concrete example of our commitment to making our decarbonization roadmap a reality. It also speaks to how collaboration across the industry will be key to making this happen. We have received a strong level of support for this project from our airline and air traffic partners, plus regulators. The opportunity to get this deployed for passenger aircraft around the middle of this decade is very promising,” said Sabine Klauke, Chief Technical Officer, Airbus.
The flight took place from Toulouse, France, to Montreal, Canada and achieved more than a 5 percent fuel savings, proving that wake energy retrieval flight technology leveraged in a “fello´fly” flight could be achieved without compromising safety. This technique could help commercial aircraft boost their environmental performance and contribute to the aviation industry’s decarbonization targets in the immediate term.
To further advance the project, the industry needs the full support of authorities to work together towards certifying this type of flights. The demonstration was “an inspiring example of the level of current commitment to reduce aviation emissions,” said ICAO’s Council President Salvatore Sciacchitano. ICAO’s Minister General, Juan Carlos Salazar, remarked on that this project showed “the incredible diversity of air transport innovations now being realized to meet the sector’s targets and ensure flying becomes more and more sustainable.”
The fello’fly project was launched in 2019, following the principles of biomimicry: “the design and production of materials, structures and systems inspired by nature.” This project is part of Airbus UpNext, which aims “to give future technologies a development fast-track by building demonstrators at speed and scale, in order to evaluate, mature and validate potential new products and services that encompass radical technological breakthroughs,” according to Airbus.