Singapore Airlines: Green Efforts Taking Off


Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines' first multi-sector green flight in January used 6 percent less fuel than normal


While air transportation is probably the least green aspect of a typical trip, travel agents may one day be able to offer some eco-friendly flight options to clients as airlines continue to explore alternatives.

For example, as part of steps to improve aviation’s environmental impact across Asia and the South Pacific, Singapore Airlines successfully completed its first multi-sector demonstration green flight on January 31. The venture is a result of the airline’s partnership with the Asia & South Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE). It involved flight SQ11 from Los Angeles to Singapore via Tokyo.

ASPIRE was jointly formed by Airservices Australia, Airways New Zealand and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2008. Today, its membership has expanded to include the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. The first of ASPIRE’s test flights was conducted in September 2008 aboard an Air New Zealand aircraft.

Travel Agent spoke with James Boyd, spokesman for Singapore Airlines, who filled us in on the green practices carried out on flight SQ11, ASPIRE’s most recent test flight. He said reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and fuel efficiency is key to green aviation.

“From a business perspective our number-one expenditure is fuel, so if we can cut that by a substantial percentage, it can be a real game-changer for airline economics,” says Boyd. This flight saved more than 10 tons of fuel and 33 tons of carbon dioxide emission, a 6 percent savings on overall fuel burn.

Green practices began on the ground with a recycled-water engine wash and a ground electrical supply power source, but the most important changes took place after the takeoff. The plane was given an unrestrictive ascent, allowing it to reach optimum cruising altitude most efficiently. Typically, an aircraft takes off in a stair-stepping pattern, which burns more fuel.

Boyd says the bulk of the fuel savings came from the aircraft taking a user-preferred route, generated from an in-flight planning system that takes the latest weather condition into account. This allows the aircraft to follow the most efficient route.

During touchdown, too, flight SQ11 used a smooth, uninterrupted descent. “The graduated line from the top of descent to the runway allows us to save substantial amounts of fuel. It also allows us to cut down on noise,” says Boyd. Additionally, the aircraft taxied on one engine instead of the usual four.

According to Boyd, the only difference passengers noticed was an early arrival—by around 20 minutes.


What’s Next


Singapore Airlines has not announced any specific future plans. Boyd says, “At this point we’re taking a hard look at the data and the information this flight yielded, and using that as part of the internal thinking about our overall approach to environmental stewardship.

“The degree to which the ASPIRE partners can work together can open the door to more opportunities for more efficient aircraft,” he adds.

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