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Airbus Investigates Flying in Commercial Formation

Submitted
To save fuel. The idea - act like a flock of birds. Severa spoke city’s (London Paris Madrid) rendezvous and fly formation over the Atlantic before reaching NYC. This will save fuel on the flight.... they’re gonna have to get a lil better with on time performance to make this work..lol (www.cnn.com) More...

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royalbfh
royalbfh 12
So, we just had a story about two high time commercial airline pilots that could not fly an ILS and now we expect them to fly close enough to reap the airflow benefits? cool.....
stansdds
Yeah, what could possibly go wrong with this plan?
airuphere
airuphere 4
Yeah no doubt...lol. In the test program they’re talking about eventually having flight cpus similar to the ata refueling ones to do this procedure. Would be between 1.5-3 nm off the vortex.
eichmat
Tim Eichman 1
Bah, Airbus computers will handle it all...
madrockradio
James Cross 1
I totally missed that – do you mind linking to the squawk?
yjamesy00
James Y 2
The article quoted Dr Sandra Bour Schaefer, CEO of Airbus’ fello’Fly:

"They will be 1 1/2 to 2 nautical miles away from the leading aircraft, and slightly offset, which means they are on the side of the vortex. It's no longer the vortex, it's the smooth current of rotating air which is next to the vortex, and we use the updraft of this air."
Taking advantage of the free lift in this updraft of air is called "wake-energy retrieval." Bour Schaeffer says that upcoming flight trials using two A350s could prove that on long-haul flights, fuel savings of between 5% and 10% may be achieved, "which is an enormous number. This is the reason why we want to accelerate it. It is not a product today, but it is something we strongly believe in."
nasdisco
Chris B 5
I swear this is one of those ideas that comes out every so often.....
royalbfh
royalbfh 4
remember the article about "circular" runways to reduce airport footprints?
Stormy105
Ed Chapman 4
Sounds like somebody needs to be drug-tested.....
whip5209
So, several large jets have to circle until the formation can be made. How would that save fuel?
hwh888
Harry Hallstrom 3
So tell me..........
Is the risk verse reward worth the price???
IMO NO !!
Quirkyfrog
This does make some sense, but isn't that the whole idea of 'airways'? I've zoomed out on the Aviation Weather site that shows planes in the air, and many ARE following each other. They aren't 'in formation', but aren't hundreds of miles apart either. But why not use larger planes? That would seem to make more sense?

I imagine, as climate change gets more severe, planes in formation hitting severe turbulence and needing to divert, or change altitude or speed, will make it dicey to have groups of planes following each other over long distances. Taking a train might be safer than being in the middle plane of a string of planes crossing storms and severe weather.
FlaminSquirrel
FlaminSquirrel 2
"But why not use larger planes?"

I'm guessing because airlines will already pick the most efficient aircraft type to fly a specific route anyway.

This would allow aircraft heading in the same general direction, but that are not necessarily heading to/from the same location, to fly even more efficiently (e.g. flights across the Atlantic).
ADXbear
ADXbear 1
Never happens by humans, maybe computer flying.. so many risks.
Greg77FA
Greg77FA 1
We all know what turbulence can do to a plane in wake turbulence. With computers and experienced pilots maybe it could be ok. Otherwise, I the only resemblance to a bird are some nice swan dives occurring over the Atlantic with last minute recoveries.
laurentfrutin
nice..
bbabis
bbabis 1
Too risky for the fuel savings with human pilots. This will most likely come about after commercial aircraft are autonomous and the lead aircraft precisely controls the others in the formation.
abowland
It is more of an internal fact finding mission...as opposed to "Investigating Formation Flying"
airuphere
airuphere 1
Should add... It’s called “fello’fly”.
RicBen
Ric Ben 1
If Aircraft manufactures really wanted airliners to fly in formation, like geese, they would have installed horns instead of TCAS.
patpylot
patrick baker -4
this is astonishly ill-advised, for unless the pilot used to be a BlueAngel or THunderbird demonstration pilot, what could go wrong with close formation flying? Maybe the pilot flew tanker aircraft or used tankers to refuel- again, what could possible go wrong ????? Don't expect an autopilot to make this a safe operation. Whoever seriously pitches this catastrophe-in-waiting should walk the plank into being fired.
mgbogue1
Mike Bogue 8
Why bother reading the article before responding to it?

"It's very, very different from what the military would call formation flight. It's really nothing to do with close formation,"
SkyAware123
SkyAware123 1
They are 1.5 to 2 miles away. That's HARDLY Blue Angel or Thunderbird territory. But hey, reading is hard....
rdtruitt
Raleigh Truitt 0
These responses show the depth of ignorance of non-flyers of aviation! It has been pointed out that the 1 ½ to 2 mile distance between planes with the trailing plane at a different flight level and offset to the side doesn’t come close to “formation flying.” It’s more like the “same way” “same day” type of flying. I’d speculate that some special station keeping equipment (SKE), such as the C-130 has had for over 40 years, would do the job nicely and quite safely.
rdtruitt
Raleigh Truitt -1
These responses show the depth of ignorance of non-flyers of aviation! It has been pointed out that the contemplated distance of 1 1/2 to 2 miles with the trailing plane at a different flight level and offset to the side hardly constitutes "formation flying." It is more like "same way, "same day" type of flying. I'd speculate that some special station keeping equipment (SKE) hooked up to the autopilot, such as the C-130 has had for over 40 years, would do the job nicely and quite safely.

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