Airbus is learning from geese to boost aircraft performance

Nov 18, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The travel world — and the world as a whole — would look entirely different if it weren’t for our feathered flying friend, the bird. Wilbur and Orville Wright drew inspiration from birds, and nature aided their understanding of essential concepts, like airflow and lift.

Even today, aircraft manufacturers continue to fall back on ornithology in an attempt to further improve efficiency, to reduce carbon emissions, increase aircraft range and — of course — curb fuel costs to save airlines money. At the Dubai Air Show on Monday, Airbus shared the news that it’s made notable progress in trimming fuel consumption by following the travel patterns of geese.

The manufacturer’s latest biomimetics venture, dubbed fello’fly, is said to reduce fuel usage by 5%-10% per trip. It entails multiple aircraft flying in a formation of sorts — not unlike the “V” shape observed in flocks of geese. Essentially, a “follower” aircraft will take advantage of the smooth rising air created by the wake of a “leader,” as visualized below.

Illustration courtesy of Airbus.
(Image courtesy of Airbus)

The concept is sound in theory, but successful execution faces many challenges. First, both aircraft need to be traveling in the same direction, maintaining distance and altitude. That may be achievable when traveling from the same city to Europe through the Organized Track System (OTS), for example, but even then, departures would need to be coordinated, and both aircraft would need to be similar — an Airbus A350 flies more efficiently at a higher altitude and speed than a Boeing 757, for example.

Airlines and manufacturers would need to get Air Traffic Control (ATC) to play ball, too, which could prove especially difficult. New York City-area airports often end up having aircraft circle for extended periods even on mild days, so it may be challenging to argue that reducing emissions is a top priority for the FAA.

Even so, Airbus is planning to test the concept with a pair of A350s next year, and the company is targeting a “controlled Entry-Into-Service (EIS)” by the middle of the next decade. If Airbus gets its way, we could see fello’fly passenger flights by 2025.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.