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Virgin Atlantic Sustainability Report: Achieves Ground Energy Target, Misses on Waste

New aircraft and software that calculates more efficient flight paths have put Virgin Atlantic on track to meet its 2020 target of a 30 percent reduction in normalized emissions over 2007 levels, according to the company’s latest sustainability report.

Since the 2007/08 baseline year Virgin Atlantic has reduced its normalized emissions by 5.4 percent. However, the company’s normalized emissions rose 1 percent year-on-year, from 117.5 grams of CO2 emitted for every passenger, for every kilometer flown in 2010/11 to 118.8 g/CO2 per pax km in 2011/12.

Virgin’s OSyS Fuel Efficiency System went live in July 2012. It will collect information on 300 parameters per flight to enable Virgin’s operational and flying teams to find efficiencies and reduce fuel use. Areas addressed include arrival delays, holding patterns, pilot technique and fuel use on the ground. The software should save the airline £20 million ($31 million) and reduce its emissions by 92,000 metric tons each year, the report says.

The first of Virgin Atlantic’s 10 new A330-300 aircraft is now in operation. These planes are 9 percent more efficient per trip and 15 percent more efficient on a per-seat basis than the models they’ve replaced, the report says. Another six of these aircraft and the first of Virgin’s 16 Boeing 787 “Dreamliners” – an aircraft that is expected to use 20 percent less fuel that similarly sized aircraft – should join the fleet in 2014.

The company’s aircraft cleaning regimen includes polishing the front of wings and washing jets to ensure they are clear of grime. Both techniques cut down on drag. The cleaning is tracked on a weekly dashboard. Virgin calculates that using this system saved 5,797 metric ton of fuel or 18,260 metric tons of CO2 in 2011.

Virgin Atlantic met its target of reducing ground energy use 10 percent by 2012 over a 2008/09 baseline, with a 10.85 percent reduction. It also aims to reduce such energy use by 20 percent by 2021.

At the airline’s head office 450 unnecessary light fittings were removed this year while more energy-efficient alternatives to light other spaces such as reception areas, lift lobbies and corridors have been sought; 138 lights were replaced by LED fittings, using 95 percent less energy than the original, the report says. A number of LED fittings are being trialed at the company’s London Gatwick hangar. Each one could replace two current fittings and offer an 89 percent reduction in energy consumption, the report says.

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