‘Perfect Flight’ Between Heathrow and Edinburgh

21 Sep 2010 by Matthew Fransioli     

Earlier this year British Airways flight BA1462 performed the first ‘perfect flight’ between Heathrow Airport and Edinburgh Airport, setting an important environmental milestone for the aviation industry. Every aspect of the flight, from backing away from the airport, taxiing and a continuous descent approach, was optimised to cause minimal delays and emissions during the journey.

The National Air Traffic Services (NATS), British Airways and BAA Heathrow and Edinburgh collaborated on the project to see the benefits that this kind of flight can offer. All parties entered into the project with the belief that a quarter of a tonne of fuel could be saved if things ran perfectly throughout the flight, effectively preventing an additional tonne of CO2 being used.

The landmark flight was initially proposed by NATS’ Andy Sampson and Kel Kirkland, with Mr Kirkland saying “Unlocking each individual link in the chain on a single flight is not easy. Everyone has had a part to play.

“It will be some time before we can expect to see the “perfect flight” replicated day in, day out but we have demonstrated it is possible and we can work towards it in the long-term.”

An Airbus 321 was used for the flight and was able to complete its flight without having to adhere to the usual constraints applied to flights in the UK as it was a one-off test, as well as being allowed to fly at a more fuel-efficient altitude for a longer period of time than usual.

BAA Heathrow Airside Operations Colin Wood said of the flight: “The benefits should include reduced taxi time, lower carbon emissions, improved air and noise quality and lower airline fuel costs. We are always looking for ways to improve the environmental efficiency of ground operations at our airports and trials such as this are fundamental in delivering new procedures and technologies.”

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