FPO Takes Off at the Singapore Air Show – Increases Efficiency and Sustainability for Airlines

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In 2021, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) passed a resolution that its member airlines would commit to being carbon neutral by 2050. This commitment has resulted in significant focus by commercial airlines on cutting carbon emissions and increasing the sustainability of their operations.

This is a challenge for the aviation industry, which burns jet fuel to operate, resulting in the release of CO2 into the atmosphere. Until alternative clean fuels are identified, airlines need to identify any and all fuel efficiencies possible to reduce their carbon emissions and decrease their environmental impact.

One of the ways airlines can accomplish this today is by flying more efficient and direct flights. By eliminating inefficiencies in flight paths, airlines can reduce the amount of fuel used, reduce their carbon emissions, and potentially decrease their operating expenses.

A solution from Collins Aerospace called Flight Profile Optimization (FPO) that can help airlines make better, more efficient flight path decisions was launched today at the Singapore Air Show.  We recently sat down with Jon Merritt, Associate Director, Flight Deck Solutions at Collins Aerospace, to learn more about FPO and its effectiveness in reducing an airline’s fuel costs and carbon emissions.

Connected Aviation Today (CAT): I understand that Collins Aerospace made an exciting announcement about its FPO solution at this week’s Singapore Air Show. Could you share the news with our readers?

Jon Merritt: We’re incredibly excited to announce that our FPO solution will become available within our FlightHub offering for commercial aviation pilots and airlines.

FlightHub, which officially launched last year, offers a modern electronic flight folder (EFF) capability, which serves as a digital center of operations where flight essentials are made readily available on the pilot’s electronic flight bag (EFB) application.

The addition of our FPO solution to FlightHub adds a tremendous new level of functionality and capability to the application. In addition to its industry-leading EFF functionality, FlightHub will now rapidly review the changing environment and suggest opportunities for optimized route planning.

CAT: Can you tell our readers what FPO does? How does FPO align with some of the top priorities we’re seeing across airlines and the aviation industry?

Jon Merritt: The Collins Aerospace FPO solution is an application using advanced, real-time decision-making tools to identify the most efficient flight paths between a departure airport and a destination airport. The system allows multiple aviation stakeholders – including pilots and airline operations – to optimize flight paths and routes.

FPO aggregates data from multiple disparate data sources – including real-time, up-to-the-minute weather, and flight tracking data – and analyzes them to make flight path recommendations that are delivered directly to the pilot’s EFF.

“The traditional method of planning and filing flight paths hours in advance resulted in pilots using flight plans that were influenced by weather patterns and systems that may have no longer existed when the flight departed.” – Jon Merritt

There are numerous trends that we’re seeing in aviation today that make FPO a vital solution for airlines.

First, today’s airlines, like other organizations, face pressure from investors to increase profitability, making cost-cutting an important area of focus. They’re also facing calls from customers and environmentalists to reduce their carbon emissions and meet aggressive carbon emissions goals. The introduction of FPO will help airlines on their path toward accomplishing both things.

By flying more fuel-efficient flight paths, airlines are likely to consume less jet fuel. This releases less CO2 into the atmosphere. It can also save airlines money.

IATA estimates that jet fuel accounts for approximately 30 percent of a commercial airline’s operating expenses. That means reducing fuel costs can have a significant, positive impact on airline profitability.

CAT: What keeps airlines from flying the most efficient route today? Why wouldn’t airlines just automatically fly the most direct, efficient, and cost-effective route?

Jon Merritt: While airlines would prefer to take the most cost-effective, direct, or fuel-efficient path whenever possible, there are several different factors that impact the flight paths that airlines fly today. The largest of these factors are usually weather and air traffic.

“FPO aggregates data from multiple disparate data sources…and analyzes them to make flight path recommendations that are delivered directly to the pilot’s EFF.” – Jon Merritt

Airlines will often identify large storms or other troublesome weather patterns in a region, then identify inefficient, indirect flight paths to get around them. I’ve seen this happen frequently in my experience in the commercial aviation industry.

I once saw a flight from Seattle to Washington, D.C., that took a very inefficient flight path to avoid a storm. While that flight path should be a relatively straight line across the United States, the actual flight path flown by the aircraft looked like a hockey stick. The plane took off from Seattle and effectively flew to Georgia before heading north/northeast to Washington, D.C.

That’s a lot of wasted miles flown, and a lot of extra fuel burnt. I’m sure it was also rather annoying for passengers who found themselves on a much longer flight than initially anticipated.

CAT: How were routes calculated before solutions like FPO? Why would FPO make a difference if it’s just automating a process that is already done before a flight?

Jon Merritt: Flight crews and dispatchers have traditionally planned and filed their projected flight paths manually, using many of the same data sources that FPO uses. However, these flight paths are traditionally calculated well before the flight, using the available and accurate data at that specific time.

“I once saw a flight from Seattle to Washington, D.C., that took a very inefficient flight path to avoid a storm…The plane took off from Seattle and effectively flew to Georgia before heading north/northeast to Washington, D.C.” – Jon Merritt

But, as we all know, the weather is constantly changing. Especially in the summer, when storms seem to come out of nowhere, only to disappear moments later.

The traditional method of planning and filing flight paths hours in advance resulted in pilots using flight plans that were influenced by weather patterns and systems that may have no longer existed when the flight departed.

New solutions like FPO provide efficient routes in real time while improving safety and pilot awareness. These solutions are constantly analyzing weather and other data to make recommendations based on the actual environment at that specific moment. This ensures that pilots can fly the most efficient path at any given time.

CAT: While FPO is widely launching for the first time, it has previously been available for some airlines for testing. What kinds of metrics and results have these tests been generating? Is FPO really making a difference in what airlines care about – cost, fuel usage, and carbon emissions?

Jon Merritt: We have been working with numerous commercial airlines to implement and test our FPO solution, and the results have been incredibly exciting. These airlines have seen the cost savings of flying more fuel-efficient flight paths and the ability to reduce their carbon emissions.

Airlines can save hundreds of dollars on every flight by drastically reducing the amount of jet fuel being used. We’ve also noted corresponding carbon emissions reductions per flight. Our optimization capability allows for savings on all flight lengths – including transcontinental and mid-continental flights.

“The addition of our FPO solution to FlightHub adds a tremendous new level of functionality and capability to the application…FlightHub will now rapidly review the changing environment and suggest opportunities for optimized route planning.” – Jon Merritt

These “per flight” cost savings, fuel savings, and reductions in CO2 emissions add up. Many airlines fly thousands of flights per year. Over the course of a year, these airlines could save millions of dollars in fuel costs, while reducing their carbon emissions by hundreds of thousands of pounds.

CAT: With FlightHub FPO now generally available for use, what does that mean for airlines?

Jon Merritt: FlightHub is available to commercial airlines and can be accessed in a number of different ways. It can be integrated into current airline systems and third-party applications or used as a stand-alone system. 

Collins has identified a unique and streamlined implementation and testing experience for airlines looking to improve their sustainability and flight planning with FlightHub FPO. Interested airlines can engage with us and see real data and metrics into how FPO could benefit their fleet.

To learn more about FlightHub FPO, click HERE.

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