The ‘fello’fly’ project that Airbus has been studying since 2019 and which on 9 November had its first practical demonstration of functionality could have an explosive impact on the world of air transport.
Last Tuesday two A350 aircraft left in formation from Toulouse and landed at the Montreal-Trudeau international airport after having traveled the entire distance between France and Canada, flying three kilometers away from each other. A crossing possible thanks to the flight control systems developed by Airbus that position the follower aircraft safely in the wake of the leading aircraft allowing it to reduce engine thrust and reduce fuel consumption.
The end result of this demonstration was a 5% saving in fuel consumption on long-haul flights and a reduction of more than 6 tons of CO2 emissions.
Beyond the implications on environmental sustainability, a possible spread of this type of formation flights would trigger an epochal transformation in the world of air transport: from airport slots, which could become divisible on 2 or 3 aircraft at the same time, to agreements between carriers, that could be combined to reduce fuel consumption.
A true Copernican revolution that could change the dynamics of world air transport in an unthinkable way today
The flight was made possible by Airbus and its air traffic management partners and navigation service providers (DSNA, NATS, NAV CANADA, Eurocontrol and IAA), with the support of the DGAC, who together demonstrated that the flight with recovery of wake energy exploited in a fello’fly flight can be achieved without compromising safety.
The next step is to enlist the support of the authorities so that this new operating concept can be certified and ultimately enable carriers to reduce their fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.