- Joe Breitfeller
Airbus and Their Partners Demonstrate Fuel and CO2 Reductions Through Formation Flight
Airbus has performed the first long-haul demonstration of formation flight in general air traffic (GAT) regulated transatlantic airspace with two A350s flying three kilometers apart from Toulouse, France to Montreal, Canada.
On Tuesday (November), Airbus announced the completion of the first demonstration fello'fly test flight showing how sharing the skies can reduce fuel use and CO2 emissions. The test was the first long-haul demonstration of formation flight in general air traffic (GAT) regulated transatlantic airspace and involved two A350s (MSN1 and MSN59) flying three kilometers apart from Toulouse to Montreal. MSN1 was the lead aircraft in the demonstration flight, while MSN59 was the follower. The test was made possible with a flight control system developed by Airbus which positions the follower aircraft safely in the wake of the updraft of the leader aircraft, allowing it to reduce engine thrust and save fuel. A similar principle can be observed with the ‘V-formation’ of large migrating birds such as geese.
In Tuesday’s announcement, Airbus’ Chief technical Officer, Sabine Klauke, said,
“This demonstration flight is a concrete example of our commitment to making our decarbonisation 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. Imagine the potential if fello’fly was deployed across the industry!”
Greeting the fello’fly flight upon arrival in Montreal, ICAO’s Council President and Secretary General, Salvatore Sciacchitano, said the demonstration represented “an inspiring example of the level of current commitment to reduce aviation emissions”, with ICAO Secretary General Juan Carlos Salazar remarking on how it reflected “the incredible diversity of air transport innovations now being realized to meet the sector’s targets and ensure flying becomes more and more sustainable.”
Pilots from Airbus partner airlines SAS and Frenchbee witnessed the transatlantic flight as onboard observers. The flight test was made possible by Airbus in collaboration with their air traffic management partners and service providers including DSNA, NATS, NAV Canada, Eurocontrol and IAA, with the support of DGAC. Together, the partners proved that wake energy retrieval flight technology leveraged in a fello’fly flight can be achieved safely. The demonstration also shows how fello’fly operations could boost environmental performance, thereby contributing to the industry’s decarbonization targets in the immediate term.
Launched in 2019, Airbus’ fello’fly is a flight demonstrator project within Airbus UpNext which utilizes biomimicry inspired by nature. Airbus UpNext is a wholly-owned Airbus subsidiary and part of the Airbus innovation ecosystem, which was created to give future technologies a development fast-track by building demonstrators at speed and scale.