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Virgin Atlantic Goes GreenSeptember 27, 2006 By: Mike Jaccarino Travel Agent
Virgin Atlantic Airways is remaking itself as the green airline of choice for anyone who prefers eco-friendly travel. Chairman Richard Branson announced in New York Wednesday a host of initiatives intended to cut the carbon dioxide emissions of both Virgin Atlantic and the entire aviation industry by as much as 25 percent. "What we're suggesting would save over 150 million tons of carbon emissions a year," Branson stated. "With global warming, the world is headed for a catastrophe. The aviation industry must play a part in averting that." Some of the initiatives Virgin Atlantic will carry out unilaterally within the next two years, and for some it needs the cooperation of much, if not all of the aviation industry. In the former camp, or the innovations that Virgin plans to implement on its own, fall things like painting the planes a lighter type of paint, thereby reducing the weight of the planes and the amount of fuel needed to get it from Point A to Point B. Virgin also plans to mandate that all its pilots implement a more fuel-efficient method of landing airliners, called the "Continuous Descent Approach" method within the next two years. But, far and away, Virgin will need the help of the airline industry as a whole to enact its more ambitious—and potentially effective—plan. It involves a revolutionary idea of towing airliners to the runway area, rather than the airliner taxiing into position on its own power. Doing so would reduce the amount of time than an airliner is running its own engines, in some cases, like at John F. Kennedy International Airport, as much as 90 minutes. Each airliner would not start its engine until approximately 10 minutes prior to take off. Arriving aircraft would also turn off their engines after five minutes to be towed to their stand, "saving considerable (carbon dioxide)," according to Virgin. Branson says he has written to the heads of other airlines, including British Airways, American Airlines and Easyjet, to talk them into the idea.