Running a leaner, more efficient airline does not have to involve spending dear capital on the latest, most efficient planes. A little bit of jet engine brain surgery can do the job.
GE engineers have developed a brainy software system that crunches aircraft data, from jet engine performance, fuel burn and plane location to information coming from digital flight data recorders. This “Industrial Internet” system is helping airlines lower operating costs by suggesting the most efficient speed and flight course. Such “intelligent” planes burn fewer gallons of expensive jet fuel, spew less carbon dioxide, and save airline millions en route.
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GE Aviation calls the technology Fuel & Carbon Solutions. The company estimates that the system can cut an airline’s fuel bill by up to 3 percent. That may not seem like much, but consider fuel costs can reach between 30 to 44 percent of an airline’s operating expenses.
If an average-size U.S. airline (70 aircraft with $1 billion in annual fuel costs) implemented Fuel & Carbon Solutions to achieve only a 2 percent improvement in fuel consumption, it would save $20 million annually and reduce carbon emission by the equivalent of removing more than 10,000 passenger vehicles from the road or planting more than 1.3 million trees. The system could save the entire global airline industry 1.9 billion gallons of fuel valued at $6.2 billion per year, and eliminate more than 18.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Several airlines from South America, New Zealand, and Asia have already adopted the system. The latest was Taiwan’s China Airlines, which signed up last week.
The system draws heavily on GE’s vast jet engine expertise. The company has been making jet engines for the last seventy years and effectively launched the jet age in the U.S. Using thousands of data sets generated by GE engines and the entire aircraft system, GE engineers created algorithms that monitor the most important aircraft parameters. The system first takes a baseline snapshot of an airline’s current performance. After the initial analysis, the system identifies savings, designs solutions, and keeps monitoring results.
“Using the principles of the industrial internet, GE Aviation’s Fuel & Carbon Solutions improved its data collection and validation process from 6 months to less than 30 days,” says John Gough, GE Aviation’s Fuel & Carbon Solutions leader. “GE recently acquired Austin Digital to integrate more software and analytics capability into our Fuel & Carbon Solutions product offerings and that investment is paying off as we help our airline customers more quickly reduce fuel spend and CO2 emissions.”