the essential Airbus succeeded on November 9 2021 its first full-scale flight test in formation of two A 350. By making them fly one behind the other between Toulouse and Montreal, the aircraft manufacturer has managed to save six tonnes of CO2 and opens up a new, more virtuous way of regulating air traffic.
Concretely the two A 286 of tests bearing the number MSN1 and MSN 24 flew one behind the other. The first as a lead plane and the second as a follower. “This was made possible thanks to the flight control systems developed by Airbus which position the follower aircraft in complete safety in the upward wake of the lead aircraft,” said Airbus.
This alignment thus allows the follower aircraft to reduce engine thrust and thus reduce its fuel consumption. This similar principle can be observed in large migratory birds such as geese, which fly together in a V-formation. Airbus is therefore betting on biomimicry (the design and production of materials, structures and systems inspired by nature) to imagine more environmentally friendly ways of flying. This suction phenomenon is also well known to motorists who overtake another vehicle or cyclists during the Tour de France for example.
Six tonnes of CO2 saved between Toulouse and Montreal 6445 On the journey, more than six tonnes of CO2 emissions were thus saved during the journey, confirming the potential for fuel savings of more than 5% on long-haul flights. “The possibility of deploying this system for passenger aircraft around the middle of this decade is very promising. Imagine the potential if fello’fly were to be deployed throughout the industry!” reacted Sabine Klauke, technical director of Airbus. This test flight was made possible by extensive cooperation between Airbus and the various French, Canadian and European air traffic control and management authorities and the navigation service providers. All with the support of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC).
In addition, pilots from Airbus partner airlines SAS Scandinavian Airlines and Frenchbee attended the transatlantic flight as observers. The next step will be to obtain the support of the authorities so that this new operational concept can be certified and, ultimately, allow airlines to reduce their fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.