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Geese Inspire New Project

“Fello Fly Project” is an Airbus major focused on saving resources utilising the principle of formation flying. This project is inspired by the migratory Geese that always travel one after the other applying the energy recovery flight technique of the wake. This technique consists of "surfing" or "gliding" the air of a leading bird, which allows them to use less energy during their long journeys. The project seeks to reduce high rates of pollution by reducing CO2 emissions; for example between 3 and 4 tons less CO2 per year in wide-body aircraft. However, the idea of two aircraft flying close to each other, makes new challenges and approaches that the industry has to overcome to make this project a reality. Airbus is doing this together with 2 airlines and 3 air navigation providers. Research results have shown that fuel savings of up to 10% per trip could be achieved, but the main concern remains that aircraft would be flying relatively close to each other, which presents certain safety challenges that would have to be overcome.

V-formation of geese in full migration Source: Wiki Commons

According to this Project, once past the waypoint, the aircraft are on the same track many kilometres apart, they are separated by the regulatory 1000 Feet in altitude and they close the distance between them to 3 kilometres, so, there will be one aircraft leader that will be responsible for communicating with ATC, then the ATC is responsible for keeping the aircraft separated, performing the Wake energy Retrieval, but still there are many issues to be addressed before Fello Fly becomes a reality.

This project represents a breakthrough but at the same time represents a major change in the flight modus operandi of both pilots and ATC, for this would require high synchronisation, attention and response time between air traffic controllers and pilots to avoid accidents of any nature between aircraft. Airbus is working in collaboration with SAS Scandinavian Airlines and Frenchbee, as well as EUROCONTROL, the French DSNA and the UK's NATS.

This Airbus project is very exciting and will contribute greatly to the care of the environment and reduce the emission of toxic gases generated by the fuel used for air transport, which at the same time will generate fuel savings for airlines. Very clever people are working on the project, but the geese know best!


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