Boeing Offers In-Flight Services to Route Aircraft More Efficiently

Boeing is offering airlines new software subscription services which will help them save fuel and boost in-flight environmental and operational efficiency. The company is marketing the services, which Environment News Services reports are based on the Direct-To advanced software algorithms developed by NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California, under the name InFlight Optimization Services. Boeing is offering two services, Direct Routes and Wind Updates, and is making both services available from 2011.

Direct Routes automatically alerts an airline’s operations center and flight crew every time a simple, more fuel-efficient path opens up along an aircraft’s intended route. To increase the likelihood of air traffic controller approval and to keep workload to a minimum, Direct Routes advisories are pre-checked for traffic conflicts, wind conditions, established airspace constraints and other factors. Boeing’s projections show that Direct Routes can save more than 40,000 minutes of flight time per year for a medium-size U.S. airline, which it says is the equivalent of operating hundreds of flights that use no fuel and produce no emissions. Boeing collaborated with NASA Ames, Continental Airlines and Southwest Airlines in developing Direct Routes to ensure the operational viability of the service and assess its benefits and the company shared details of the project and its findings with the FAA.

According to Boeing, the second InFlight Optimization Services offering, Wind Updates, will increase fuel efficiency and improve aircraft performance by sending datalink messages directly to aircraft flight decks with real-time, flight-customized wind information. These messages will enable an aircraft’s flight management computer to re-calculate flight control inputs based on more accurate and precise information. Today, if flight crews obtain wind data prior to departure, the data can be as much as 12 to 20 hours old as a flight approaches its destination. Inaccurate and limited weather data can prevent aircraft from operating at optimum speeds, altitudes and trajectories. The company projects that the Wind Updates service will offer fuel savings of 100 to 200 pounds (15 to 29 gallons, or 55 to 111 liters) or more for the descent portion of a typical single-aisle commercial jet flight. It is conducting operational trials of Wind Updates with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Alaska Airlines.