Assessing the climate impact of formation flights

Katrin Dahlmann, Sigrun Matthes, Hiroshi Yamashita, Simon Unterstrasser, Volker Grewe, Tobias Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Abstract

An operational measure that is inspired by migrant birds aiming toward the mitigation of aviation climate impact is to fly in aerodynamic formation. When this operational measure is adapted to commercial aircraft it saves fuel and is, therefore, expected to reduce the climate impact of aviation. Besides the total emission amount, this mitigation option also changes the location of emissions, impacting the non-CO2 climate effects arising from NOx and H2O emissions and contrails. Here, we assess these non-CO2 climate impacts with a climate response model to assure a benefit for climate not only due to CO2 emission reductions, but also due to reduced non-CO2 effects. Therefore, the climate response model AirClim is used, which includes CO2 effects and also the impact of water vapor and contrail induced cloudiness as well as the impact of nitrogen dioxide emissions on the ozone and methane concentration. For this purpose, AirClim has been adopted to account for saturation effects occurring for formation flight. The results of the case studies show that the implementation of formation flights in the 50 most popular airports for the year 2017 display an average decrease of fuel consumption by 5%. The climate impact, in terms of average near surface temperature change, is estimated to be reduced in average by 24%, with values of individual formations between 13% and 33%.

Original languageEnglish
Article number172
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalAerospace
Volume7
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Aircraft wake-surfing for efficiency
  • Aviation
  • Climate impact
  • Formation flight
  • Mitigation potential

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