April 12, 2006

US says China can greatly cut airline fuel use

BEIJING (Reuters) - China could greatly improve its
airlines' fuel efficiency by learning from the U.S. experience
in introducing more flexible air traffic management, a senior
U.S. aviation official said on Wednesday.

Robert Sturgell, deputy administrator of the U.S. Federal
Aviation Administration, outlined initiatives that had saved
U.S. airlines millions of dollars in fuel bills, including
introducing greater flexibility between civil and military

He also cited satellite navigation systems that allowed for
more direct routes and an air traffic management system that
permitted more high-altitude flights as advances from which
China could benefit.

Sturgell's remarks, given at a news conference, followed
meetings with Chinese aviation officials on Tuesday, during
which he encouraged them to explore innovations in air traffic
management that could effect great fuel savings.

The U.S. Department of Transportation had set a goal of
cutting the fuel burned in each kilometer (mile) of flight by 1
percent a year through to 2009, which would save U.S. airlines
around $2 billion in annual fuel costs, Sturgell said.

And an important factor to reaching that goal would come
from greater flexibility in the allocation of airspace between
civil and military use, he said, even in the United States,
where more than 80 percent of airspace is for civil use.

"The U.S. government made a decision years ago to allocate
the largest share of total U.S. airspace for civil aviation
use," Sturgell said.

China makes much less of its airspace available for civil
use, but it has begun to open up further.

The International Air Transport Association, the global
industry's club, said on Monday China would this week open new
routes through its airspace that would cut flying time between
Europe and the big cities on its eastern seaboard by half an

The association said the routes to be opened on April 13
could initially benefit 110 flights a week and save airlines
millions of dollars in fuel bills.

The association, which had been negotiating with Beijing on
the new routes for over five years, says that only 30 percent
of China's airspace has been open to civil aviation.