United Airlines has taken hypermiling to the skies.
On a flight between between Chicago and Frankfurt, the airline employed every trick in the book to show what can be done to reduce fuel burn in existing aircraft. The result was a savings of more than 1,400 gallons of jet fuel on a transatlantic round-trip flight. That may not sound like a whole lot, but with more than 600 airliners flying across the Atlantic on an average day, it adds up quickly.
The flight, made earlier this month, and was a regularly scheduled trip but United and its partners, including air-traffic controllers in the United States, Canada and Europe, had been planning it for some time. Several fuel-saving techniques were used, but the main goal was demonstrating how a flexible flight path allows pilots to take advantage of favorable winds, says Joe Burns, director of flight tests at United.
“The ability to change altitude even by a couple of thousand feet could make a big impact depending on how close you are to the jet stream,” he says.
The round trip flight was made with a Boeing 777. And like many of their road-going hypermilers, United made no modifications to the airplane. Instead the airline simply employed a host of techniques to save fuel. Unlike some hardcore hypermilers, the pilots adhered strictly to all safety regulations and did not pulse-and-glide or draft a bigger plane to Germany.