Richard Branson is at it again: Virgin Atlantic announced last week that it will start towing some aircraft closer to the runway before takeoff at England's Heathrow and Gatwick airports, in an effort to cut carbon emissions by reducing the time the engines run. Branson has also championed efficiency measures like requiring airplanes to turn off their engines five minutes after landing and then be towed to the gate.
I was skeptical of the energy savings when I first read this, but Virgin claims that this system would cut its fuel consumption and on-the-ground carbon emissions more than 50% at Heathrow and more than 90% at JFK Airport in New York. In fact, in flights between JFK and Heathrow, the aircraft wouldn't have to carry as much weight in the air - about two tons less - thereby burning less fuel in the air and cutting carbon emissions even further.
Trials will continue through 2007. Branson announced earlier this year that he would spend all of the profits from his airline and rail businesses on fighting global warming.