Airbus is set to upgrade more than 200 LATAM aircraft to allow them to complete a continuous descent when approaching airports. The fuel-saving initiative is expected to save some 60,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year. The announcement came as part of Airbus’ sustainability summit, currently being held in Toulouse.
While it was rightly placed second to health and safety over the last year and a half, sustainability is rapidly regaining its position as the top issue facing aviation. While the aviation industry is only responsible for 2-3% of global CO2 emissions, its pollution is particularly visible. The industry is working hard to cut its emissions regardless of its image to do its part for the planet.
LATAM getting continuous descents
As part of its sustainability summit, Airbus today revealed that it would be updating over 200 LATAM A320 family aircraft with a “descent profile optimization” feature. Typically, when aircraft are descending into an airport, they will do so in several stages, leveling off between each.
Each time the aircraft levels off, engine power must be increased to stop the aircraft’s descent. Additionally, the air is denser at these lower holding altitudes. Thus air resistance is greater, and more power is needed to push through the air.
The idea of a continuous descent is split into two parts. Firstly, the aircraft doesn’t need to increase power several times on the descent, so it only uses idle thrust. However, it also allows the aircraft to stay at higher, more fuel-efficient altitudes for longer.
The continuous descent allows for significant fuel and emissions savings. According to Airbus, LATAM will save 100 tonnes of fuel per aircraft per year with constant descents. This, in turn, will cut 300 tonnes of carbon dioxide per aircraft per year. Scaled up to the entire fleet, this would equate to saving 60,000 tons of CO2 each year, which is not insignificant.
Airbus’ sustainable fuel deliveries
Alongside the continuous descent announcement, Airbus also revealed that it would begin using Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) when delivering aircraft from another plant. SAF deliveries are nothing new at Airbus. Now, they are going stateside.
According to Airbus, deliveries from its Mobile manufacturing facility will be powered by SAFs later this year. The fuels will be provided no later than November by Signature Flight Support. Such fuels will allow Airbus to cut its emissions further.
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While SAFs emit similar amounts of CO2 to traditional fuel, the source of the carbo in the fuels is different. Rather than taking carbon out of the ground and adding it to the ecosystem, SAFs take carbon already in the ecosystem captured when plants grow. This way, while emissions are still created, there would be no net-carbon increase from SAFs. As SAFs are blended with traditional fuels, the saving is realistically closer to 80%.
What do you make of LATAM’s continuous descent Airbus A320 upgrade? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!