Aircraft Operations

Carbon Council Focus Areas

Below is an explanation of our five Carbon Council focus areas to reduce fuel consumption, along with previous examples of their successful implementation:
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Fixed Weight: Reducing the permanently installed weight on the plane (e.g., radial landing gear tires and carbon brakes).
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Variable Weight: Reducing the boarded weight on the plane (e.g., reducing the weight of Unit Load Devices like cargo pallets).
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Flying Operations: Flight routing and planning changes to reduce fuel burn (e.g., investments in flight planning software and collaboration with Air Traffic Control regarding Establish on Required Navigation Performance (EoR)). Additionally, we will continue to seek to collaborate with governments, airports and others on cross-industry initiatives. One example of this ongoing collaboration is through the NextGen Advisory Committee, which provides independent advice and recommendations to the FAA related to air traffic management.
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Ground Operations: Investments in ground procedures and infrastructure to reduce fuel burn while the aircraft is on the ground (e.g., investments in communications technologies, maintenance pad electrification, APU Ambassadors dedicated to reducing Auxiliary Power Unit (“APU”) usage while at the gate and partnerships with innovative companies to accelerate new methods of saving jet fuel during ground operations).
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Aerodynamic Modifications: Permanent modifications to aircraft to improve their aerodynamic performance (e.g., investments in split-scimitar winglets and blade-tip coating research with the U.S. Air Force).

Carbon Council’s Operational Improvements

As we work to execute and track operational initiatives that reduce jet fuel consumption and improve emissions intensity, Delta’s Carbon Council manages fuel burn and drives reductions in fuel consumption through cross-divisional collaboration. Our Carbon Council is an established group of senior leaders overseeing Delta’s operational trajectory to advance fuel efficiency and progress toward our medium- and long-term sustainability goals.
Strategic working groups support our Carbon Council to drive further improvement in fuel efficiency. The working groups consist of relevant business units, each chosen for focused collaboration on specific initiatives. Each working group can spearhead progress in its dedicated area while identifying and communicating opportunities and roadblocks to the executive leadership team.
One example of the Carbon Council’s work is the decision to install enhanced split-scimitar winglets for drag reduction on the 737 fleet. Delta TechOps recently finished a five-and-a-half-year project to equip all 130 Delta 737-900ER aircraft with these winglets. This aerodynamic enhancement improves fuel efficiency by reducing lift-induced drag. We expect this investment to yield an annual fuel savings of 8 million gallons for this fleet type alone, with an incremental 3.3 million gallons of fuel to be saved annually from the recently initiated undertaking of the same project across the 737-800 fleet.

Another example is Delta’s active role with Air Traffic Control (ATC) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in implementing EoR in 2021 and 2022. EoR is an improved instrument approach system that allows ATC to clear aircraft for landing with shorter flight paths. This system takes advantage of the FAA’s NextGen airspace modernization initiative and can shorten flight times by 3–5 minutes. By reducing overall flight time, this system drives fuel savings and can help customers reach their destinations more quickly. This system could provide an estimated one million gallons in fuel savings annually at LAX alone once fully utilized.
Delta’s Carbon Council meets quarterly with the executive leadership team to guide decision-making and drive continued progress on fuel reduction initiatives, focusing on both medium- and long-term progress toward Delta’s net-zero efforts.