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Efforts on to lower fuel losses in aviation sector

Times of India; 5 Nov 2007

NEW DELHI: After the auto industry, the government has decided to investigate fuel losses in the aviation sector. The Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) has commissioned the Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc) and the National Aeronautical Limited (NAL) to study the Bangalore and Delhi airports to find ways of increasing fuel efficiency in the aviation sector.

The six-month study will help set up benchmarks for best practices in managing airports. "We shall look at how to improve management of airports. There are three key areas where losses occur at the moment - excess hovering in the sky, taxiing around and being unable to achieve cruising altitude," said R Srinivasan, professor of the department of management studies, IISc, Bangalore.

However, the massive congestion at Delhi and Mumbai airports that is unlikely to ease in a hurry could mean that long hovering times - and fuel losses - may remain for some time. It is common for aircraft to hover for about an hour at peak times in Mumbai and the situation is not going to improve soon as the second airport is over five years away. Delhi is going to get a new runway next summer and air congestion could reduce substantially.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is trying to refine ATC techniques to increase runway movement capacity and lower hovering time. "But steps required to do so, like reducing gap between two incoming aircraft, has its own risks. Unless we can come up with adequate mitigation factors and operating procedures, it won't be safe to do so," said a senior official.

According to Srinivasan, if hovering was reduced by even five minutes for each plane at an airport that handles 100 flights per day, the industry would save about 4.83 million litres of aviation fuel costing about Rs 21 crore. The Bangalore airport has seen a 700% increase in passenger handling between 1981-2007 and is considered the most congested with Delhi following close behind.

PCRA has already consulted the aviation ministry, the airport authorities as well as the Federation of Indian Airlines and taken them on board to ensure the study is suited to the needs of the industry.

"It is to the industry's advantage and they have all agreed to participate and help," said a senior PCRA official. NAL is expected to carry out simulation studies to see how airport and flight management practices suggested give results. "These simulations would be carried out for Bangalore airport and will help set benchmarks for other airports," Srinivasan said.

The study will improve ground handling and ultimately, will be used as an input into the national policy on fuel conservation as well as civil aviation rules. The study will also look at rationalising air routes as well as opening alternate airport locations.