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A330 on the scalesAir Berlin’s focus on reducing its carbon footprint, and its fuel bills, is inspirational. Airberlin, despite having achieved a new record with its average fuel consumption of 3.4 liters per passenger kilometer flown, is continuing to extend its pioneering role through constant innovative developments. It has so far had three approaches to reducing fuel bills: through operational techniques, which involves pilots; through drag reduction techniques, which involves maintenance of the aircraft skin paint, and now through weight reduction programs. Weight, Drag, and Flying techniques: all three impact fuel burn.

In 2012, the Fuel Efficiency Training program was introduced in which 60 pilots served as “Fuel Coaches” to pass on their knowledge to around 280 pilots, on “Fuel Efficiency Flights”. These flights placed emphasis on the use of the GPU instead of the APU, when parked at the gate; Continuous Descent Approaches, and Single Engine Taxi. These save not only fuel, but cut maintenance related bills due to reduced system wear.

Airberlin also became the first airline to develop new software for aerodynamic optimization, using a in-house developed measuring tool aimed at optimizing air flow over the aircraft exterior. This new software calculates the additional fuel consumption due to the increased air resistance and allows Airberlin to repair these specific flaws in the course of the next maintenance event.

In its latest drive, “Mission Clear Out”, Air Berlin removed all non-fixed items from an Airbus A330: D-ALPC, to weigh and identify those that were essential, non-essential, and those that could be replaced with something lighter. For example, the Quick Reference handbook is essential, but a hard copy of the manual does not need to be carried since it is already available in digital form on the computer in the cockpit.

With this exercise, Air Berlin was able to save 17kg, which, over a year, translates to significant  savings. The longest route flown by Air Berlin is to Los Angeles, from Berlin, which is around 5,000NM. An Airbus A330-200 burns, over this distance, approximately 200kg of fuel for every 1000kg of additional load. If even 17kg is knocked off an airplane, it translates to a saving of 3.5kg per aircraft, and at least 7 kg per aircraft per day. Over a year, this amounts to 2,555kg per aircraft per year, or 3,200 litres per aircraft per year. With their fleet of 14 A330-200 (as of 30th of June 2013), this can result in a saving of as much as 44,712 liters of ATF per year, and this is huge: enough to fuel an A330 for a 4,000NM trip!

“This project has demonstrated that Airberlin is already very well positioned in terms of eco-efficient flying, since only a few items were found that were non-essential. Nonetheless, the expense has paid dividends and reduced annual CO2 emissions per aircraft on long-haul routes by about eight tonnes, which is equivalent to 2.5 tonnes of fuel,” said Christian Bodemann, Head of Cabin Maintenance at Airberlin technik and the project manager of Clear Out.

The mission has had a further positive outcome: during the detailed analysis carried out on the aircraft’s non-fixed furnishings, it was possible to identify several follow-on projects, which Airberlin will now continue to pursue as part of its efficiency drive.

Recently, Airberlin received the “Silver Eco-Airline of the Year” award, given as part of the Eco-Aviation awards, by the American aviation magazine Air Transport World, in recognition of its commitment in the area of eco-efficiency.