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Winter 2012

Author: Unknown
This article appears in Issue 4: the Winter 2011 edition of the Aircraft IT Operations eJournal. For your own free subscription to the eJournal - click on 'SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE' for full details.


How to ensure an effective fuel saving program

Ian Britchford, formerly easyJet’s Fuel Conservation Manager and now Head of the Fuel Saver Program at ETS Aviation, highlights the importance of engaging all parts of the business in the quest for fuel efficiency as a continuing management challenge

Aviation fuel now represents around 40% of an airline’s total operating costs: and fuel prices are predicted to continue rising. This, coupled with the 2012 introduction of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), has created a scenario where aircraft operators are focused on reducing fuel consumption. Airlines are also becoming more aware of their customers’ environmental concerns and are looking for ways to promote their brand’s green credentials and reduce their carbon footprint.

Access the relevant data

Most aircraft operators already generate the data required for a fuel saving campaign but the information is held in different systems such as flight planning, operation control and tech logs. One incidental benefit of the EU ETS requirement is that all aircraft operators must now record and report their fuel burn data and, even with this basic information, it is possible to identify significant potential savings. What is then required is to consolidate data from the different sources, to show clearly the fuel use at every stage of the operation, and to provide analysis of the data through which potential fuel savings can be identified. Which is where some smart software comes in handy.

Measurement, insight and action

Fuel conservation software  can’t do it all on its own. You need some experience and expertise to locate the priority areas, and to implement the initiatives that can then be tracked in the software. In practice, a fuel saving program should be seen as an evolving partnership between software engineers, data analysts and the flight operations team.

Fuel saving software must present the data clearly as it has to be understood by different personnel, and flight crews may only have limited time to access the data they require. The software must be designed from the user’s perspective, as this will ensure it will be more easily accessed and used effectively. Reports on all monitored parameters must be presented in ways that help users to quickly identify where savings can be made, maximizing the efficiency of the fuel saving team.

A fuel saving program should also be individually tailored, because every airline operates in its own way. Fuel initiatives and data required may be similar, but an understanding of each airline’s actual operations is crucial if the fuel saving program and the initiatives through which it is delivered is  to be really effective.

Who should be champion for fuel conservation?

Many smaller operators do not have the resources to monitor their fuel-burn with sufficient accuracy to support a fuel saving program. They also resist expensive consultancies and avoid the majority of software systems available because of the high costs and the fact that their effective use requires a great deal of analytical expertise.

However, most operators must collect the emission data for the EU ETS, and this normally falls to someone within Flight or Ground Operations. As a result of increasing costs, many pilots and key ground operations personnel are working long hours and do not have the time or expertise to dedicate to a successful fuel saving program in addition to managing the ETS data. In our experience, if it’s not the EU ETS person handling the fuel saving initiatives, it’s a part-time role for someone from the Flight Operations department. And this is even the case for some of the larger operators!

Fuel saving should not be solely the responsibility of Flight Operations, since many savings can be made in optimizing procedures and planning even before the flight departs. Flight Planning, Engineering and Finance departments can all have a part to play in an effective fuel saving program. In fact, to maximize the potential benefits, such a program must extend across all departments. While safety will always be the number one priority, a fuel efficiency program needs to challenge all the current operating procedures and look for best practice from each relevant department.

Embracing fuel conservation at easyJet

Following an IATA audit, UK low-cost airline easyJet, with a fleet of over 200 aircraft , decided to hire a Fuel Conservation Manager to oversee their fuel saving program. The ideal candidate for this role within an airline is not a pilot, but someone who will take into account the whole business and introduce fuel efficiencies for that airline across all the operational parameters.

The support of senior management is a key requisite to drive through new initiatives. Therefore it is recommended that a Fuel Conservation Manager is independent and has a cross-functional role. At easyJet, I was that Fuel Conservation Manager reporting directly to the Chief Operating Officer and with access to all the departments within the Operations Team, plus the support of a senior manager when assistance was required from outside of our department. Fuel saving is not a universally popular topic within an airline as it tends to generate additional work for already challenged teams. However it does offer the chance to realize significant savings.

From my recent experience at ETS Aviation, working with operators such as Evergreen International Airlines, Malev Hungarian Airlines and Air Seychelles, I have established two key principles. Firstly, that no two airlines operate in the same way, and secondly that fuel saving initiatives won’t be taken seriously unless they are actually achievable. Here’s a simple example: the benefits of engine core washing are widely understood but, if your aircraft depart early and before a ground power run can be carried out due to noise limitations, there is no point trying to implement this practice as part of the fuel saving program.

How to get support for the program internally

To assist the cross-functional support for fuel saving initiatives at easyJet, we implemented a Fuel Saving Committee (FSC) bringing together on a regular basis all of the key stakeholders and making each department aware of the initiatives that had been adopted. These review meetings enabled effective communication of recommendations and their impact through the whole business, and ensured the program got full support. An FSC should consist of all key stakeholders: Flight Operations, Ground Operations, Operations Control, Pre-flight Planning, Scheduling, Engineering, Finance and Commercial.

At easyJet we found the best way to get people to buy into the changes was through presenting them with accurate data. When presented with historical operational data, colleagues were able to realize the potential benefits of and reasons behind the fuel saving initiatives. Overall we successfully implemented many fuel saving initiatives, from one engine taxi and aircraft engine coatings, to reduced APU burn and less additional fuel carried - procedures which generated multi-million dollar fuel cost savings.

An accessible fuel saving program

Until recently, only large airlines had the time and resources to gather the key data sets and merge them for uploading into a system. These operators had the resources and potential savings to cover the cost of investment in developing internal programs or to pay for external consultancy.  At ETS Aviation we approached the problem from a different direction. We developed a piece of software that could do most of the hard work, and this enables us now to offer all the benefits of a fuel saving program at a fraction of the usual cost of running an internal department or hiring an external consultancy.

ETS Aviation’s fuel saving program is designed for all aircraft operators, no matter what the type or size of fleet, and works through a combination of expert consultancy and our dedicated Aviation FuelSaverTM software. It is a specialist on-site solution with on-line consultancy included, and includes software updates and data upload services as part of the service.

The system targets fuel saving managers in airlines but can also be used by non-fuel saving experts, including Pilots, CFOs, CEOs and Ground Operations Managers. As a spokesperson for Malev Hungarian Airlines put it recently, “Even the initial fuel saving assessment was a very valuable project which has already helped us to improve Malev's Fuel Conservation performance”.

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