If you read the newspaper, watch tv, or have any other connection with the outside world, you probably know that Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin empire (including Virgin Atlantic Airways), is pretty good at drawing attention to himself (look left). This week, it was plastered all over the news that he is giving $3 billion to invest in alternative fuel (from which he’ll handsomely profit, no doubt), but there’s more to his plan to save the earth (er, save money) than this.
- Create starting grids at airports – Basically the airplane would be towed from the gate to locations at the end of the runway. Then they’d start their engines and depart. The reverse would occur upon landing. This saves fuel and reduces local emissions around the airport.
- He also supports “Continous Descent Approach” – basically this means you do a long gradual descent instead of the usual stepped descent that normally happens. This of course requires cooperation from Air Traffic Control (ATC).
- Speaking of ATC, he wants to create a unifying body in Europe for all ATC instead of the many organizations they have now. This would enable more direct routings to save fuel.
- Branson is also going for weight savings by using lighter paint, using lighter materials for onboard items, and removing empty bottles before each departure.
With all of this, Branson says it’ll save 150 tonnes of emissions from going into the atmosphere each year. And guess what? People are playing along. BAA, a company that operates most London airports among others, announced it is going to work with Branson on the starting grid idea at London/Gatwick.
Of course, he’s not doing all of this out of sheer appreciation for our atmosphere. Holly Hegeman has a good piece in this week’s PlaneBusiness Banter (subscription required) talking about how these moves will clearly line his pocket book. The planet is just fortunate enough that the goals of making money are suddenly aligned with an environmental movement. That’s good news.