This paper describes the development of an optimization-based multi-stage centralized planning system for the efficient routing and assignment of extended flight formations in commercial airline operations. In an extended formation, where aircraft are longitudinally separated by 5-40 wingspans, a trailing aircraft can attain a reduction in induced drag at fixed lift, and consequently in fuel burn, by flying in the upwash of the leading aircraft’s wake. To organize the assembly of flight formations on a network-wide scale essentially two distinct approaches can be taken, viz., a centralized approach and a decentralized approach. Both approaches have distinct advantages and disadvantages. In this study a novel multi-stage method for flight formation assignment is proposed that combines the advantages of the decentralized approach (fast computation and reduced vulnerability to flight delays) with the main benefit of the centralized approach (a near-global optimum in terms of fuel savings). The multi-stage centralized approach that we propose is validated and subsequently demonstrated in a case study involving a wave of 267 eastbound transatlantic flights. In the case study fuel savings of 6.8% are recorded (relative to flying “solo”), while flying in formations comprising up to 16 aircraft.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 4th International Conference on Vehicle Technology and Intelligent Transport Systems
EditorsMarkus Helfert, Oleg Gusikhin
PublisherScitepress Digital Library
ISBN (Print)978-989-758-293-6
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event4th International Conference on Vehicle Technology and Intelligent Transport Systems - Madeira, Funchal, Portugal
Duration: 16 Mar 201818 Mar 2018
Conference number: 4


Conference4th International Conference on Vehicle Technology and Intelligent Transport Systems
Abbreviated titleVEHITS 2018
OtherThis conference focuses on innovative applications, tools and platforms in all technology areas such as signal processing, wireless communications, informatics and electronics, related to different kinds of vehicles, including cars, off-road vehicles, trains, ships, underwater vehicles, or flying machines, and the intelligent transportation systems that connect and manage large numbers of vehicles, not only in the context of smart cities but in many other application domains.
Internet address

    Research areas

  • Formation Flight, Flight Routing, Fleet Assignment, Fuel-efficiency

ID: 44920800