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Need a More Efficient Flight from Dubai to San Francisco? Good News...

Editor's note: Below is a post that Adam Stern at TerraPass recently shared with us. In our opinion, the accomplishment of the world's "longest green flight" is a dubious one, and we are wary of spreading false hope that the type of special arrangement described will be the key to creating a low-carbon air travel industry. But we still felt that the flight, Stern's account of how the reductions were achieved, and the commentary that resulted, are worth knowing about.

Previously on Worldchanging, we've discussed various solutions for improving the sustainability of global air travel, from alternative jet fuels to new mechanical designs to an innovative way to reuse airplane fuselages. For the most distilled version of our position on air travel, read Alex Steffen's post, Why We Need An X Prize for Eco-Friendly Air Travel


Longest green flight in the world
By Adam Stern

Emirates Airline flight # 225 landed at San Francisco International yesterday afternoon having completed a remarkable nonstop trip from Dubai. The journey aboard a Boeing 777 200-LR (for long-range) covered 8,085 miles and was billed as the longest green flight in the world.

Emirates spent three months planning this flight to maximize fuel savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Before leaving Dubai, the airline practiced new fuel-saving measures, including:

  • Washing the plane to reduce air friction;
  • Removing unnecessary weight from inside the plane;
  • Using auxiliary power from the airport terminal instead of power generated by the jet engines; and
  • Employing a tug vehicle to take the plane from the gate to the runway.

Air traffic control approved a smooth take-off to cruising altitude, thus avoiding a more common ascent in which planes move up incrementally with bursts of engine acceleration.

Perhaps the most crucial element in the flight plan was securing permission from the governments of Russia, Iceland, and Canada to use a special route that crossed near the North Pole.


During the flight, the pilots received frequent live weather reports — along with prompt authority to fine-tune the routing to take advantage of favorable wind conditions. Finally, traffic controllers at SFO gave flight # 225 a priority landing approach through the often-busy Golden Gate air corridor.

The result: Emirates reduced flight time from 16 hours to 15 hours, 19 minutes and cut fuel use by 6 percent. Estimated savings in greenhouse gas emissions were 40,000 lbs. These savings are on top of reductions obtained by using the Boeing 777 200-LR, a jet 20% more efficient than a comparable Airbus 340-500. Emirates will now analyze the flight results and determine which environmental practices can be applied more broadly in its worldwide operation.

While air travel causes only two percent of global GHG emissions, it’s the fastest growing segment. Airlines would be wise to follow the results of Emirates’ green experiment.

This post originally appeared on the TerraPass blog.

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That's one small step in aviation that might change the way the industry operates. Kudos to Emirates Airlines for taking the initiative. Re Editors Note, while I agree that way this was achieved seems unorthodox, it is still practical and also everything they do is being monitored so we will see this evolving into something more concrete and standardized.

Posted by: Umar in Dubai on 18 Dec 08

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