New Year's resolution

This is the time of year when many of us resolve to improve ourselves in some way in the future — lose weight, kick a habit, maybe establish a more fuel efficient fleet, etc.

Well, that last resolution is more suited to airlines perhaps. And I wanted to share with you an eye-opening chart from Continental Airlines showing how they resolved to improve their fuel efficiency.

Continental presented this chart during a media event in New York this fall that I attended. What it says to me is, it’s possible for an airline to really make a significant efficiency improvement over a relatively short period of time. It’s not only great for our environment, it’s great for an airline’s bottom line.


Continental has been steadily streamlining its fleet and adjusting operating procedures to reduce mainline fuel consumption per “revenue passenger mile” by 35% since 1997.

How was Continental able to do this? With new airplanes, new technology, and some good old fashioned hard work.

First, they retired older, less efficient aircraft and replaced them with newer technology Boeing airplanes. Continental has invested more than $12 billion over the last 10 years to acquire 270 aircraft and related equipment.

In terms of technology, they’ve added winglets to their airplanes. This has helped improve efficiency 4-5%. By the end of 2007, more than 200 aircraft in Continental’s fleet will be equipped with winglets. They’ve also installed GE90 Aero Blades (a more efficient fan blade) on their 777s.

And then there’s the hard work. For example:

  • Enhancing the flight planning system to minimize fuel burn
  • Where possible, using preconditioned air and power from the terminal to cool and power the aircraft at the gate rather than using the aircraft auxiliary power unit
  • Using only one engine during ground taxi whenever possible
  • Reducing the use of fuel-driven thrust reversers on landing

They’re even doing things as simple as routinely washing their aircraft and engines to reduce drag. And as they look to the future, Continental has put in place a Fuel Efficiency Task Force that continually evaluates new ways to improve fuel efficiency.

Finally, they’ll continue to add new fuel efficient airplanes such as the 737-900ER as well as the 787 Dreamliner to their fleet.

In 2008 I’ll be resolving to lose weight. Again. Not sure how that’s going to work out. But it’s good to know that in at least one case, a resolution is generating great results.

Comments (7)

Chris C (South Africa):

“Aviation has never been for the weak of heart -- it has been for the bold... those who dared to dream what many thought were impossible. That is the legacy we all share today, as we look to the future.” This remarkably true comment made by Scott Carson clearly enforces Boeing’s philosophies as well…forever new frontiers.

This is seen with the world’s most technologically advanced and super-efficient airplane, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that has pushed the envelope beyond many people’s imagination...both in design, production methods and global-partnerships. Further, the phenomenal 747-8, despite at its root being a derivative of the venerable 747-400, is essentially an all-new airplane as Boeing went bold, and what some people thought was impossible, designed the new 747 that offers economics and capabilities that are virtually only seen on all-new designs and still betters the competitor’s model in certain, key areas!

Indeed, a tip-of-the-hat is also due to Airbus for being such a great, fierce competitor that has kept Boeing continually innovating and designing better and better aircraft, and vis-à-vis. Congratulations and well done on a yet another sterling year, both in terms of orders and achievements to both companies.

Despite the disappointment of the 787 first flight delay and delivery slippage, that airplane will go on into the future as the greatest aircraft ever built with well over 2,000 orders! Looking very forward and expecting soon, to see many more 747-8I orders, 787-10 announcements and 777 xs’s…exciting times ahead, that’s for sure. Keep up the great work Boeing, and Airbus, you keep our aviation world economical and dynamic!!

Season’s Greetings to you Mr. Tinseth and fellow commentators! Roll on 2008!

Mathew McBride (Geelong, Australia):

Using only one engine during ground taxi whenever possible
Not on the 777, right? Will the 787 support it?

New Year's resolution
Fly the 787 :)

Tim (Baltimore):

I have not been on here in a while.
I wish you and the people at Boeing a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

I read what Continental Airlines is doing to cut back on fuel use, but it seems to me that using the terminal to cool the airplanes and power them at the gates would be using up the energy of the airports, how is that saving energy?
I was wondering? How about using Geo Thermal heating and cooling ?

I know, I know, cost too much, and might not be practical.
However, I talked with someone one time and they told me they have Geo Thermal heating and cooling in their house, and let's just say, their bills for heating and cooling is almost zero.
Yes, I know, the start up cost, and can it be practical for airports to use. It might be more practical for new construction of airports or remodeling. They can out the systems coils under ground at the airports between the run ways, it won't get in the way of the planes because the coils are under ground.

Solar is to expensive to be practical for airport use, unless the cost comes way down. Anyway, those are my thoughts.

G (France):

I wish you all, readers included, a merry Christmas and a happy 2008.

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

Continental Airlines for years starting with Gordon
Bethune has made smart decisions when it comes to fleet modernization, economy, and simplification.
With only four types, the 737,757,767,and the 777
their is a commonality in all the aircraft, and with
less TBO's and high bypass engines economy comes into order, and with one of the most modern fleets in the world, it is only natural that the aircraft
are among the most up to date in technology in the world.

In many ways Continental has learned the hard way when CO had many types in the fleet with those listed and including the 727, 737 1st and 2nd gen. 747,DC-9,DC-10, and the infamous A300 B4-203 all simultaneously in the fleet, planning in the late nineties has practically saved the airline from going out of business it also helps to work with labor something that Frank Lorenzo had problems with.

Boeing has been the front runner in developing fuel
efficient airliners starting with the Boeing 757 and 767, the 767 being more fuel efficient and long range than the A300 and A310, and the 757 having the lowest DOC's in the industry, the Boeing 777 designed to be a shoe in between the B767-300 and the B747-400 and a replacement for the DC-10 is as
fuel efficient as the 767 and provides the comfort of a 747, the Boeing 737 3rd generation carries as many passengers as a 727 and is far quieter and more fuel efficient than the MD-80,MD-90, and the A320.

The Boeing 787 in less than a year's time will be far more revolutionary than any airliner flying today
along with sculpted turbine blades that the 777 has
the airframe is sculpted to be more efficient as well as large windows like no other plane has well as better humidification and cabin altitude to 6,000 feet. So far Boeing has kept on top on the field of technology, ergonomics, and environmental preservation.

From me to all of the readers Merry Christmas,
Happy Holidays, and don't drink too much eggnog!

Tim (Maryland):

I was wondering - some people have car ports for there cars to protect the cars from rain, I was thinking could they build some kind of airliner port for the planes at the gates to keep the planes from getting hot during the summer, and some how introduce some kind of solar clear panels over the plane to keep it warm in the winter ?
Or have some kind of material sort of like heavy duty plastic/ali-foil that you can roll out ( or powered by a motor ) over the top ( a few feet above the planes )of the planes when they come in at the gates ?

I am always thinking of ways to save energy.

Tim (Maryland):

Too bad there is not a practical way and cost effective way to embed solar arrays or ( develope solar chips ) that you could embed into the runways at the airports, but, won't be effected by the weight of the planes and won't effect any sensors, or the pilots vision.

How about putting solar panels on the gate bridges ?
Got to think outside the box.

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