Emirates Airline flight # 225 landed at San Francisco International yesterday afternoon having completed a remarkable nonstop trip from Dubai. The journey aboard a Boeing 777 200-LR (for long-range) covered 8,085 miles and was billed as the longest green flight in the world.
Emirates spent three months planning this flight to maximize fuel savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Before leaving Dubai, the airline practiced new fuel-saving measures, including:
* Washing the plane to reduce air friction;
* Removing unnecessary weight from inside the plane;
* Using auxiliary power from the airport terminal instead of power generated by the jet engines; and
* Employing a tug vehicle to take the plane from the gate to the runway.
Air traffic control approved a smooth take-off to cruising altitude, thus avoiding a more common ascent in which planes move up incrementally with bursts of engine acceleration.
Perhaps the most crucial element in the flight plan was securing permission from the governments of Russia, Iceland, and Canada to use a special route that crossed near the North Pole.
During the flight, the pilots received frequent live weather reports — along with prompt authority to fine-tune the routing to take advantage of favorable wind conditions. Finally, traffic controllers at SFO gave flight # 225 a priority landing approach through the often-busy Golden Gate air corridor.
The result: Emirates reduced flight time from 16 hours to 15 hours, 19 minutes and cut fuel use by 6 percent. Estimated savings in greenhouse gas emissions were 40,000 lbs. These savings are on top of reductions obtained by using the Boeing 777 200-LR, a jet 20% more efficient than a comparable Airbus 340-500. Emirates will now analyze the flight results and determine which environmental practices can be applied more broadly in its worldwide operation.
While air travel causes only two percent of global GHG emissions, it’s the fastest growing segment. Airlines would be wise to follow the results of Emirates’ green experiment.