Alaska Airlines reduces fuel consumption by 17 percent through winglet retrofitting and ground air units

Alaska Airlines reduces fuel consumption by 17 percent through winglet retrofitting and ground air units | Alaska Airlines, Aviation Partners Boeing, winglets, Kristin Fuson, Joe Clark

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 with Aviation Partners Boeing blended winglets (photo: APB)
Thu 3 July 2008 – Alaska Airlines is now using mobile ground-based air units at nearly all its gates at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It has also just completed retrofitting all its existing Boeing 737 aircraft capable of using blended winglets. Since 2002, the airline estimates it has reduced fuel consumption per passenger mile by 17 percent.
The preconditioned air units, along with ground-based electrical power, have replaced use of an aircraft’s onboard auxiliary power unit (APU), which runs on jet fuel. The use of the units at 19 gates at the airport is expected to conserve more than 1.1 million gallons of fuel per year, saving $2.6 million annually based on current prices, according to an Alaska Airlines’ flight operations engineer and project manager, Kristin Fuson.
Although diesel-powered, ground-based units burn about 10 times less fuel than APUs, leading to estimated reductions in CO2 emissions of 24 million pounds (10,900 tonnes) a year, says the airline.
Annual savings are expected to more than double to 2.4 million gallons of fuel and $5.5 million once the units are in place at the airline’s other hubs in Anchorage, Los Angeles International, Portland and San Francisco later in the year.
The airline has purchased or leased 33 mobile air units for the five airports, which, at $65,000 each, will pay for themselves in about 18 months, says Fuson. If the project is successful, more units will be purchased for other airports. Starting in September, some fixed units will be installed at all the hubs, which are powered by electricity from the airports, so avoiding the burning of any jet or diesel fuel.
The 737 winglets, manufactured by Seattle-based Aviation Partners Boeing (APB), improve fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions by about 3%, or some 100,000 gallons a year per aircraft, estimates Alaska Airlines. By the end of this year, it will be flying 74 Next-Generation 737s with winglets, representing 64% of all its 116-aircraft fleet. All new aircraft entering the fleet will be delivered with blended winglets.
According to APB, its winglets have saved the industry more than 1 billion gallons of fuel to date, with projected additional savings of more than 175 million gallons in 2008. “No other airplane modification will provide the fuel savings and eco-friendly benefits of our blended winglet technology,” says the company’s founder and Chairman, Joe Clark.
Alaska Airlines has also recently undertaken additional fuel-saving and emissions-reducing initiatives, including:
·         speeding up the replacement of its MD-80 aircraft with more fuel-efficient 737s;
·         using only one engine when aircraft are taxiing for maintenance work;
·         employing more satellite-based navigation, using Required Navigation Performance (RNP) technology that enables aircraft to fly more direct routes and reduce diversions due to weather; and
·         since retrofitting all aircraft with lighter-weight catering carts in September 2006, the airline has saved nearly 300,000 gallons of fuel annually.



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