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Sky-high eco driving

First Officer Daniel Andersson wants to see a future in which everyone can travel without harming the environment. Here, he explains how green flights and green approaches could help make that happen.

Isn’t the shortest route always the greenest one?
Finding the route that requires the least amount of fuel helps reduce carbon emissions, but several things influence routing. Shifting winds and temperature at cruising altitude can mean that the most fuel-efficient route isn’t always the shortest. Country borders and airspace restrictions also affect route choices. The routing of each flight is calculated by advanced software using advanced weather data.

What other factors can be employed to make green flights? 
Flying at optimal cruising speeds and cruising altitudes can both help to reduce fuel consumption. Cruising speeds are calculated by the flight management computer for maximum fuel-efficiency in relation to the wind, with strong headwinds requiring higher speeds. The optimal altitude depends on the wind, temperature and weight of the aircraft and differs for each flight.

Why haven’t these methods always been used to make flights green?
With modern technology giving us more data we can now make more precise calculations. Cruising speeds have decreased slightly as fuel prices have risen and environmental concerns have become better understood. 

How can some of the challenges to choosing shorter routes be overcome?
Long-term work is needed between airlines, air traffic controllers and legislators to enable more precise routes, independent from airspace and country borders, to be employed. An EU project to unify European airspace and enable much more direct routings disregarding national borders has the ambition to decrease carbon emissions by 10%.

What is meant by the term green approaches?
The term “green approaches” refers to descents towards runways which are made by aircraft in the most fuel-efficient manner. 

How are green approaches made? 
The most efficient approaches use GPS-based procedures -designed to make them shorter. If you approach an airport from the south, for example, but the wind dictates a landing from the north (landings are normally performed into a headwind) you would conventionally have to fly quite a long route past the airport. By flying a GPS-based approach however, it’s possible to decrease the route length considerably. Green approaches can also be made by leaving cruising altitude at just the right moment.

Are there any challenges to green approaches?
In busy airspace it can be more difficult to facilitate green approaches because there are many aircraft arriving, departing and flying over each airport. 

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