Sept. 6 - Passenger aircraft flying in formation like birds are likely to be a feature of aviation in the second half of this century, according to plans revealed by aviation giant Airbus. Edward Baran reports.
It's not a display by the Red Arrows. In fact, it's a realistic vision for the future of air travel, according to the world's largest manufacturer of passenger jets. Aircraft flying in formation, about 1 kilometre apart, could be a feature of aviation by 2050 on high-traffic routes under a plan produced by Airbus. The company's engineering chief Charles Champion says the idea - modelled on the way birds fly long distances - will reduce fuel consumption. SOUNDBITE: Charles Champion, Executive Vice President Engineering, Airbus (English): "When you're behind other aircraft you actually save ten to fifteen percent fuel. So it really works and in fact the birds put that forward in order to minimize the energy to fly long distances so it's all about actually bio-mimicary and taking the lessons learned from nature." The company says that by the middle of the 21st century flights in Europe and the USA could on average be around 13 minutes shorter, cutting down on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. They also envisage aircraft climbing more steeply on take-off to minimise noise and allow for shorter runways. Aviation analyst Howard Wheeldon welcomes the ideas, but warns it'll take more than aircraft technology to implement. SOUNDBITE: Howard Wheeldon, aviation analyst, saying: "It isn't just the aircraft, it isn't just the fantastic engine technology, it is also the operation of the airlines. It's governments, it's regulation, it's looking at themselves how they can do things better, and allow aircraft to get into airports, in airports and through airports a lot faster." However unlikely this might look now, Airbus insists their blueprint will be helping passengers get from A to B more efficiently within decades. Edward Baran, Reuters.