With the global economic crisis and the perpetual profit problems at major airlines, it is interesting to learn how airlines are trying to save fuel costs. As you might imagine, fuel is one of the major cost components of their business. While there are ongoing efforts to replace fossil-fuel based jet fuel with biofuels the ability to produce such fuels in great enough quantities and the development of the technologies required are still years away. In the meantime, airline profits continue to be depleted by rising fuel costs. Earlier this week United Airlines planned to demonstrate a new fuel-saving method on 2 flights between the U.S. and Europe, and hope to save some 940 gallons, or 3%, of fuel over what the Boeing 777 would normally burn on such a trip. Aircraft are normally assigned a specific altitude to fly at, but if allowed to let the aircraft deviate up or down by as much as 3,000 feet it would save the extra fuel necessary to maintain a precise altitude. In addition, it would allow the pilots to choose the most efficient altitude with respect to winds and other conditions. Joe Burns, a United Airlines captain and managing director of technology and flight tests stated that "A thousand feet can make a big difference in our fuel burn." For shorter domestic flights it wouldn't make much difference, but on 8 to 10 hour flights it can be significant. The test will also employ a flight planning system that computes the best route, altitude and speed calculated using wind and aircraft weight changes as it burns fuel during the flight. The main problem is the difficulty it places on air traffic controllers to maintain the required separation distances between aircraft. United Airlines alone burned some 564 million gallons of jet fuel last year at a cost of about $ 1.19B. Other airlines continue to test fuel cost savings measures as well. Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 The airport runway is the most important mainstreet in any town. — Norm Crabtree, former aviation director for the state of Ohio ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!