Airlines Could Reduce CO2 Emissions With Better Use of Wind

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Airlines could “substantially” reduce their fuel consumption if planes become more efficient at riding the wind, according to new research.

Commercial flights between New York and London during the 2019-2020 winter could have used as much as 16% less fuel if pilots had taken full advantage of the jet stream, scientists at the University of Reading said in a paper published this week.

“By adopting a more flexible routing system, carbon-dioxide emissions from transatlantic flights could actually be reduced by millions of kilograms every year,” wrote lead author Cathie Wells, a PhD researcher in mathematics at the university.

Waiting for more efficient aircraft could take decades, said co-author Professor Paul Williams. Therefore, “choosing flight routes that make better use of the jet stream could deliver emissions cuts that are significant, cheap and immediate.”

The aviation industry added more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2019, according to BloombergNEF. While emissions have plummeted since because of Covid-19, that drop is likely to be temporary.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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