Web tech helps airlines reduce fuel costs

24 Mar 2009

Talk about giving a whole new meaning to aerodynamics. An Irish company is pioneering web-based technology for Bangkok Airways to help the airliner lower its fuel costs and CO2 emissions.

Based in Swords, Co Dublin, Liberator.aero has signed a three-year deal with Asia’s award-winning, boutique airline, Bangkok Airways, for the provision of Liberator’s LFI Fuel Savings Programme.

According to Kevin Pryor, co-founder and joint managing director with Tony McDermott of Liberator.aero: “Liberator’s timely introduction of its CO2 emissions measurement module as part of its fuel management programme will provide Bangkok Airways with a clear, auditable facility to comprehensively measure CO2 emissions per flight and per 100 passenger kilometre.”

Before starting Liberator.aero, Pryor had worked in Aer Lingus and provided the Bangkok-based airline with IT services in the Nineties.

“We kept in touch over the years and managed to reignite the relationship,” he explained.

Liberator has developed its fuel savings programme for airlines using specialised performance measurement technology.

According to Pryor: “The amount of fuel consumed by an aircraft is expressed in terms of its weight. For example, a Boeing 737 burns about 2,300 kilos of fuel per average flying hour. For every kilo of fuel consumed, it emits 3.16 kilos of CO2. Liberator’s LFI System measures and reports on fuel burn and emissions performance and how an aircraft is affected by factors such as extra fuel carried, weight and balance, etc.”

In terms of its web-based technology, Liberator helps airlines to reduce their operating costs by using its Fuel Management Dashboard tools to constantly monitor operations and share the information with all relevant users and executives.

Pryor said Liberator’s system provides information to airline managers and their handling partners on how they are performing, thus identifying problems.

“Through a measuring process, our system allows them to fix the problem and sustain best-practice ground and flight operations procedures for the long term.”

Even now, with jet fuel being at low rates, the annual fuel bill for airlines is the highest or second-highest annual operating cost, according to Pryor.

“By micro-managing the weight and balance aspect of fuel burn, airlines can further cut their fuel bills by between 1pc and 2pc per annum – this represents savings of millions of euro per year for an average-sized airline.

“The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will also give added incentives for airlines to be more fuel-efficient, as they will be able to sell excess credits to other airlines that are less efficient and which are faced with ETS penalties for exceeding their caps.”

Pryor said fluctuating fuel costs represent the single-biggest commercial challenge for airlines.

“Huge effort is invested in reducing fuel burn, with initiatives including air-traffic management, continuous descent, single-engine taxi and weight reduction.”

Liberator.aero itself was spawned from the Dublin Institute of Technology Hothouse programme. The company has been operating in the sphere of web-based technology since 2003, helping airlines reduce their CO2 outputs, while also amassing significant fuel cost savings.

According to Pryor, Liberator.aero is original in its technical capability to assist airlines in lowering their fuel costs.

“Our approach is unique. The data we analyse measures fuel consumption and associated emissions by taking operations data feeds from aircraft in flight, flight-planning systems and ground operations systems.

“This data is then processed using algorithms to produce web-based graphical reports on an airline’s fuel-burn performance and associated costs,” he added.

In January 2008, Liberator.aero joined the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as a strategic partner, a move that gave the company the opportunity to forge a broad network of international aviation contacts.

SAS International, Liberator’s primary customer, has been working with the company for over three years now as part of its own efforts to reduce fuel burn on long-distance flights.

“SAS has managed to reduce the fuel it carries on flights to the far East by up to 2,000 kilos per flight. This saves SAS millions of euro per year in not just the cost of the fuel, but also in the reduced weight of the aircraft,” Pryor said.

“There is a weight cost penalty of 4pc per hour for any extra fuel carried above and beyond the required fuel for safe operation of the flight. On a typical long-haul flight of eight hours, this saves about 1,600 kilos of fuel, or about US$800 per flight in the case where 5,000 kilos less fuel is uplifted based on optimising the planning process.”

“Another member of the SAS Group of airlines — Blue1, based out of Finland — has been a user of our systems and services since April 2008,” he added.

As part of its plans to provide the aviation sector with practical tools to take part in the ETS, Liberator is investing in further R&D to develop functionality for the measuring, reporting and evaluation of emissions to fit specifications laid down by regulatory bodies globally.

Pryor explained: “We are perfectly placed to build green technologies for the international market from our base in Swords and in Hyderabad, India.

“We are also close to agreement with a leading industry player to build a corporate web-based dashboard tool that can be accessed by iPhones, BlackBerry phones, etc, as well as conventional laptops and desktops. This will enable CEOs and other key staff to keep in touch on a daily basis with how key aspects of their business are performing.

“To survive in such harsh recessionary times, where airlines are reluctant to spend anything unless it guarantees savings or benefits or complies with regulatory issues, we have recently modified our pricing to a savings-based model, so the airline only pays us if it reduces its fuel burn.

“Airlines are expressing real interest in this approach, as it greatly reduces their risk exposure and enables them to chase significant savings and partake in ETS,” Pryor concluded.

By Carmel Doyle

Pictured: Asia’s boutique airline, Bangkok Airways, has inked a three-year deal with Liberator.aero, whose technology will allow the airline to comprehensively measure CO2 emissions per flight