In the airline business one element dwarfs all others when it comes to environmental and sustainability issues. It is, of course, fuel. According to Trevor Didcock, CIO of easyJet, "the company spends over a billion pounds a year on aviation fuel. Every one per cent saving is worth ten million pounds to us."
From his past experience with motoring organisation the AA Didcock knows that fuel saving costs, even for large fleets, would be in the £200k to £500k range. As he says, "These are good projects, but the opportunity is nowhere as big as it is in airlines."
Trevor Didcock, currently heads the CIO UK CIO 100 listing of the most transformative 100 CIOs in the UK. The panel of judges of were impressed with both easyJet and Didcock's understanding of the role technology plays in transforming an organisation yet operating from a comparitively low budget.
By outsourcing the datacentre operations to environmentally-responsible Savvis, Didcock is better able to concentrate his efforts on the big wins for easyJet.
Every plane has an ACARS system on board that sends operating data back into the easyJet network and thence to OSyS which, according to Didcock, " is an attractive fuel reporting application and, since I joined easyJet, we've pushed the accuracy of data going into it from 86 to 96 per cent."
The main opportunities to save fuel focus on when the aircraft engines are started, how they're used for taxiing and how the aircraft is trimmed for landing. Some of these have environmental impacts beyond just the emissions from burning kerosene.
For example, the company used to inject a sense of urgency in its cabin crew and passengers by starting the engines early, prior to departure. The aim was to minimise the risk of missing the take-off slot. Now engines are started at the last possible moment, thus reducing fuel use, noise and emissions. And, as Didcock notes, "there's a very happy correlation between cost and environmental considerations."
Planes used to taxi using two engines, the modern Airbus design lends itself well to taxiing on a single engine. This represents a considerable fuel saving both prior to take-off and after landing.
A third measure relates to the flap position when coming into land. Get that right and you can fly in under minimal power... A reduction of landing speed also means less use of the fuel-gobbling reverse thrust.