Flight planning moves into fuel savings

 - May 3, 2010, 9:48 AM

UVflightplanner.com, Universal Weather and Aviation’s flight planning system for business aviation, now has integrated fuel tankering calculations, which the company claims is an industry first. The new system, which goes live this week, allows operators to quickly decide when and how they should fill tanks with fuel during a trip. According to UVFlightPlanner product manager Marcus Walker, customers have been asking for the application for years because it makes sense to assess their fuel uplift strategy when doing the rest of their flight planning.

The operator inputs the preferred fuel prices at the departure and arrival airports from a drop-down list of prices negotiated by Universal, or can input specific prices available. The system runs analysis of the most cost efficient way to fuel the aircraft for a given trip based on the flight plan. According to Walker, it is the first system to handle both of these tasks in one application in addition to the runway analysis and weight and balance calculations, which also have to be done.

The operator can also order fuel through UVFlightPlanner.com, which issues a fuel release to the supplier. Here at the EBACE show, Universal (Booth No. 7030) is giving away free trials of UV-FlightPlanner.com.

“The system gives the cost and different percentages [for savings] based on the maximum fuel uplift possible at any location,” explained Walker. “It shows the [financial] gain or loss in terms of costs for fuel from one place or another. The last column shows which [fuel outlet] is optimum in terms of savings.”

According to Universal, most other fuel tankering tools are not accurate because their calculations are based on Great Circle routes. The UVFlightPlanner system takes account of prevailing winds.

Randy Stephens, senior director specialty products, said, “Users will now have the ability to perform [these] calculations with every flight plan. This information will empower them to make decisions that will ultimately reduce their costs on fuel purchases. For example, when fuel prices differ between airports, it might be worth uplifting more fuel where it is less expensive, even when taking into account the cost of extra trip fuel needed to carry extra weight.”

The system allows operators to avoid doing the calculations separately on spreadsheets and using calculators, added Stephens, and uses the optimized flight path rather than great-circle distances. It can therefore optimize taking into account wind on the various available route choices, and by being an integrated system any runway or weight/performance can be taken into account automatically as well.

Online Trip Status

Universal continues to add new functions to UVFlightPlanner.com. For instance, it recently introduced an enhanced trip status tool to give operators faster, easier and free access to trip information. The system has been refined so that the most important trip information can be accessed at the top level of the site, with opportunities to then drill down further into the site to get other details.

“The system now has a lot of flexibility and a lot of options,” explained Suzanne Baker, director of client relationship management, “Now we’ve added more enhancements including contact information for FBOs, alternative phone numbers, local times in the itinerary in addition to Zulu time.”

One goal has been to make UVFlightPlanner.com more flexible in terms of the extent to which operators want to handle trip support tasks themselves. Eventually, Universal will give clients the ability to manage all of their own trip details online, including account data.

“Cost control is an element of this,” said Baker. “We are trying to create one place online where you can access everything.” Universal is planning to roll out more enhancements to UVFlightPlanner.com by early June.

Meanwhile, from the end of this month Universal is making its UVdatalink service available to operators of aircraft equipped with the Honeywell AFIS system. Until now, the service, which relays flight plan data, has been available only to users of Global VHF and Satcom ACARS datalinks.

“Customers have been asking for this for some time,” said UVdatalink product manager Rick Vlahovich. “Before, AFIS operators had to use another service provider for datalinks and many of our clients have a split fleet [i.e. both ACARS- and AFIS-equipped aircraft] and now they can cover the whole fleet with one system.”

ETS Advice is Available

Many aircraft operators have arrived in Geneva with serious headaches caused by having to deal with Europe’s new emissions trading scheme (ETS). Well relief is at hand, with Universal Weather & Aviation’s regulatory services supervisor Adam Hartley at the company’s EBACE exhibit to give advice.

Hartley will also be demonstrating Universal’s ETS online resource center, which includes videos and sample monitoring and reporting plans.