Lufthansa to lower take-off acceleration altitude globally to save fuel

Lufthansa is set to change its take-off procedure for all departures outside Germany, and implement one standard, worldwide.

As of 1 June 2013, the airline will lower the acceleration altitude, for using the climb thrust and for further accelerating by its aircraft that are taking off, from 1,500 feet (approx. 457 metres) to 1,000 feet (approx. 305 metres).

What does 1000-foot acceleration altitude mean?

Immediately after take off, an aircraft usually ascends at a constant speed with the flaps extended until it reaches a certain altitude. Modern aircraft generally do not use the maximum thrust available at this point, but rather a reduced level of take-off thrust. When the aircraft reaches an initial target altitude, the engines’ thrust is switched to climb thrust.

As the aircraft continues to take off, it has to accelerate so that the flaps can be retracted and it can climb to its cruising altitude at a higher speed.

As passengers we experience this flaps retraction, which leads to a momentary reduction of lift in the wing, by a sinking feeling.

Soon after that the aircraft starts speeding up and the nose is raised higher to continue the climb.

The altitude at which the speed increase begins is called the acceleration altitude.

By reducing the altitude from 1,500ft to 1,000ft above ground level (AGL), decreases the wind resistance when the flaps are retracted, thus lowering fuel consumption. Lufthansa expects that changing the procedure at Frankfurt alone would save around 2,200 tonnes of fuel per year and a reduction of around 7,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Globally, Lufthansa will save around 6,000 tonnes less kerosene, around 18,000 tonnes less CO2.

A reduction in the acceleration altitude from 1,500 feet to 1,000 feet is permitted under ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation “pronounced Eye-Kay-Oh”) regulations and is standard practice at most German and international airports and is already used by many airlines as it leads to lower fuel consumption and a reduction in CO2 emissions.

Lufthansa has already notified the German aviation regulator the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (LBA), or “Federal Aviation Office” of the modified procedure, and has received approval. The German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development have already granted Lufthansa permission to change the procedure.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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