There is a lot of reading material available about fuel efficiency. The best-known publication is the one on the right, the IATA Fuel Book, ‘Guidance Material and Best Practices for Fuel and Environmental Management’ which is also the best place to start. If your airline doesn’t have this book, it’s a worthwhile investment at $500 or so and very good read – not to gather dust on a bookshelf – to give you a very good idea about how to get started; in fact there’s a whole chapter on ‘how to start your fuel efficiency program’. There are other publications: Airbus is very good with publications on fuel economy, on performance monitoring and a great one on cost index and Boeing has similar publications as do Embraer, Bombardier and even Fokker. Start with this first step.
Next is organization inside the airline. The airlines that have a fuel efficiency program should have a group of people that work together as a team to push and drive fuel efficiency initiatives across the entire airline: not only the pilots, important as they are, but also maintenance engineering, the commercial areas, ground operations and flight dispatch, a very important involvement more of which below. Organization, processes and senior management support as referred to above.
The third main area is the tools, the software to support the fuel efficiency program. Readers will be familiar with the mantra that ‘you cannot manage what you cannot measure’. To a degree that is true although it’s still possible to do some right things without full information. However, in general you’ll need the right software to collect all flight operational data and do analyses so that you can see where the big-ticket items are, to see how much is being saved or even if savings are being made and, if not, why not? All of that can be discovered in analyzing quality-checked data. Getting the data first requires the right tools. Some airlines develop tools in-house, there are also companies in the industry that have developed excellent tools. Usually, it’s the best thing to such a tool in place when starting an FE program.
For the last part, if you’re stuck on starting a fuel efficiency program or you want to know how your airline is doing because there’s already a program in place but you’d like to benchmark it against others, call in a consultancy service. They have the knowledge, they know how and what to fix, and they will give you a crash course in fuel efficiency.
While the organization is a pretty important part of the program, it’s also something with which readers will be familiar. To be successful, a clear will, mandate, and support from Senior Management are vital. There will have to be a strong and empowered fuel efficiency team consisting of people from all areas of the airline and they will have to follow the principles of change management related to internal communication and stakeholder involvement. Everybody needs to be bought in to the program; everybody needs to be looking in the same direction; there needs to be somebody in the organization who talks about fuel efficiency all the time; it’s very important to leverage success, to publish within the airline what has been achieved, how it has been achieved and who did that. Also, the improvements will have to be measured, you’ll need a tool for that; and, most importantly, improvements will have to be sustained, make sure that whatever has been put in place doesn’t slip because of lack of interest, you’ll have to ensure that people remain interested.
Tools and software
Aircraft generate operational data. Data is received from ACARS, from the flight data recorders, the operations control system, there are many sources. So, airlines will want to gather all that data to start looking at it and to make comparisons, to check what is happening in actual flights compared to what happened during planning; and is planning close to actual or is there a very large gap? If there is a gap, we can use data to start looking for the reasons in order to know what has to be done to close the gap. For all of that, you need a tool. Many readers will have worked with Excel and traditionally, airlines have used Excel or simple database solutions while having partial or limited data available. However, it’s difficult with too much time lost or wasted by a fuel efficiency manager or team cleaning up data, ensuring that the data is attributed to the correct flight. The problem is that all the data comes from different recorders and different backgrounds so it’s very difficult to make sure that you have the right data. But there are five or six excellent software tools on the market today that will do all of that work for you: there is a bit of pain to get such a solution installed because the IT people have to do some work to ensure that data is flowing and that core systems aren’t affected, but once it is flowing, all of that data will be at your fingertips, leaving you free to spend the time on analysis; looking for the problems and the issues, and putting the team to work on fixing them rather than chasing data.
A fuel budget
We’ve already touched upon fuel price. For Figure 5 we are using examples from 2018 to indicate a more typical fluctuating operating environment than the current market.