Until now, airlines had no way of communicating in the Polar Region besides using a High Frequency (HF) radio, which is so unreliable that airlines decided not to use it because it was too dangerous. Now, being able to fly over the poles, airlines can save time and money. Plus they will produce less pollution.
According to Damien McCormack, director of Aircraft Solutions at SITA, flying over the poles can save approximately 30 minutes to an hour in flight time, depending on the size of the aircraft, flight route and exactly what points over the Poles the plane is flying.
McCormack also said that by saving one hour on an airbus 330, which can accommodate up to 335 passengers, it can account to a savings of 5.5 tons of fuel, which equates to 17 tons of C02 emissions. With a Boeing 747, which can accommodate between 416-524 passengers, saving one hour of flying time would account to saving 10 tons of fuel, which equates to 35 tons of C02 emissions.
Another benefit from flying over the poles is that for the same amount of fuel, airlines can carry more passengers. “Some airlines have worked out that for a Boeing 777 flying for JFK to Peking you can carry about an extra 90 passengers, and you’re saving 85 minutes in flight time in the winter,” said McCormack. “In the summer you can carry an extra 75 passengers and you’re saving 70 minutes in flight time.”
After six years of testing, the new M2M technology has been approved by the FAA. The satellite communication technology is being provided by a US company, Iridium. Iridium will provide satellite data services for air traffic control communications when flying across oceans and over the Polar Regions.
The new satellite technology is already being used by airlines such as Cargolux, Hawaiian, and Continental (NYSE: UAL), with more expected to adopt the new technology in the future. Continental had been an active participant in the testing of the communication system, and currently has 11 Boeing 737-700/800 and 18 Boeing 757’s using the communication technology, according to Ron Renk, Continental manager of flight technologies and a 737 pilot. Continental, who merged with United Airlines in October, plans to equip 23 Boeing 747 Subsidiary United aircrafts with iridium technology later this year.
Iridium’s Future Air Navigation Systems (FANS) 1/A is a controlled pilot data link service that automatically reports data, such as location, back to air traffic control every four minutes of flight time using low-orbit satellites. According to Iridium, this data link service reduces the exposure to operation errors and pilot deviations by automatically sending information without pilots having to call it in themselves.
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