Formation flight tested: Two Airbus A350s save money thanks to teamwork

For some time now, a European aircraft manufacturer has been analyzing whether planes can fly in formations like birds. Now Airbus has tested it concretely for the first time – with two A350s over the North Atlantic.

You see it over and over at bike races. One of the drivers leads in front at the head of a group, after a while he retreats and another takes his place. The cyclist in the front serves as a windbreaker. Downhill driving can save up to 30 percent of energy.

For some time now, Airbus engineers have been working on the idea of ​​whether planes could do the same thing as cyclists and use gliding current. However, the situation in the air is more complex and therefore more bird-oriented. These also fly in formations. This creates an upward current balancing to the left and right of the first animal. It can be used by birds flying to the side directly behind it and saves energy.

Save up to ten percent of fuel?

Fellofly is the name of the Airbus project – A combination of Fellow and Fly, i.e. Companion and Fly. With SAS, the French Bee and air traffic control in France, Great Britain and Europe, the aircraft manufacturer wants to know if the planes can fly in formations. Airbus hopes to save five to ten percent of fuel in this way.

Now, for the first time, the manufacturer has specifically tested the molding flight using long-distance aircraft. On Tuesday, Airbus sent two of its test planes on a flight across the North Atlantic. Two A350s flew three kilometers from Toulouse to Montreal.

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Five tons less carbon dioxide2

The A350 with serial number 1 flew forward, followed by the aircraft with number 59. The aircraft manufacturer said in a press release that the in-house developed flight control system made it possible to “place the aircraft aft safely in the aircraft’s ascent stream ahead.” In this way, the aircraft’s thrust can be reduced backwards, thus reducing fuel consumption.

Five tons of carbon dioxide2 were avoided and at the same time showed the potential for fuel savings of more than five percent. This is not only good for the environment, but also helps airlines save money. The test flight involved several thousand euros.

Still convincing the authorities

In the next step, Airbus wants to persuade the authorities to certify the formation flight. It will be especially suitable for high frequency roads – like track since
Transatlantic reopens Monday November 8th again for travelers from Europe– The corridor in which many planes cross at the same time.

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