(Jet) fuel efficient | AspenTimes.com

(Jet) fuel efficient

When United Express switched its aircraft that serves Aspen, it essentially dumped a gas guzzler for a fuel-efficient model, according to research by an Aspen businessman.Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a central bookings office, figured the shift from BAE-146 aircraft to the CRJ-700 could improve fuel efficiency by about 40 percent.Air Wisconsin used the BAE-146 when it operated United Express flights between Aspen and Denver. Sky West took over operations in April and switched to the CRJ-700.The BAE-146 had four engines to tackle the difficult logistics of landing and taking off at Pitkin County Airport. While it served the market well for several years, there is no denying it was one of the biggest gas guzzlers in the industry, said Tomcich.”It had the relative fuel economy of a 20-year-old Jeep Wagoneer,” he said.The switch made Tomcich curious about fuel economy and emissions reductions.A report released by the city of Aspen last year concluded that a whopping 22 percent of Aspen’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions come from commercial flights. Another 19 percent comes from private aircraft, according to the report’s inventory of greenhouse gases.Tomcich’s research showed the BAE-146 burned about 817 gallons of fuel per hour. The flight time between Denver and Aspen is about 30 minutes. The fuel consumed was about 409 gallons or 4.75 gallons for each of the 86 passengers on a full flight.The CRJ-700 burns about 444 gallons per hour. Its cruising speed is faster than its predecessor so it makes the 126-mile flight in 25 minutes. Therefore, it burns 185 gallons of fuel on the flight or 2.8 gallons for each of the 66 passengers on a full flight.Tomcich said his figures are estimates that don’t factor in taxi time or climbing time.At first blush, the change in aircraft indicates Aspen might be able to lower its greenhouse gas emissions. However, Dan Richardson, the city government’s project manager for the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said more research is necessary.While Tomcich’s work is a step in the right direction, the key to reviewing performance will be looking at fuel usage and the actual number of passengers served, Richardson said.The city’s own inventory doesn’t necessarily provide an effective baseline figure for greenhouse gas emissions from commercial aircraft. The city based its figure on national standards for aircraft fuel efficiency.Richardson said the city is not planning to update its inventory until 2008. But, he said, there is a chance that the aircraft contribution to emissions could be re-examined sooner.Auden Schendler, director of environmental affairs for the Aspen Skiing Co., see Jets on page A6said Tomcich’s research shows that resorts like Aspen, which rely on the travel industry, can still make themselves more environmentally friendly. Aspen and the Skico are regularly challenged for being “hypocrites” because they claim to care about the environment yet rely on visitors who must burn a lot of energy to get here.”We’re not going to change our business. We’re going to radically reduce its impact,” Schendler said.The improvements of CRJ-700 over the BAE-146 is indicative of the direction the airline industry is moving, Schendler said. High fuel prices make it critical for air carriers to operate fuel-efficient aircraft.Tomcich said Aspen might receive additional good news in the effort to lessen its impact next year. Frontier Airlines plans to use an aircraft called the Q-400 to fly from Denver to mountain towns beginning next year. While the destinations haven’t been identified yet, Aspen appears to be a good bet.Tomcich said the Q-400, dubbed “The Green Machine” by manufacturer Bombardier, is allegedly even more fuel efficient than the CRJs on short flights. He said fuel efficiency figures were hard to come by because they are closely guarded by manufacturers.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.see Jets on page A6

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