Multi-objective flight altitude decision considering contrails, fuel consumption and flight time

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17 Citations (Scopus)


The rapid growth of air travel and aviation emissions in recent years has contributed to an increase in climate impact. Contrails have been considered one of the main factors of the aviation-induced climate impact. This paper deals with the formation of persistent contrails and its relationship with fuel consumption and flight time when flight altitude and true airspeed vary. Detailed contrail formation conditions pertaining to altitude, relative humidity and temperature are formulated according to the Schmidt-Appleman criterion. Building on the contrail formation model, the proposed model would minimise total travel time, fuel consumption and contrail length associated with a given flight. Empirical data (including pressure, temperature, relative humidity, etc.) collected from seven flight information regions in Chinese observation stations were used to analyse the spatial and temporal distributions of the persistent contrail formation area. The trade-off between flight time, fuel consumption and contrail length are illustrated with a real-world case. The results provided a valuable benchmark for flight route planning with environmental, flight time, sustainable flight trajectory planning and fuel consumption considerations, and showed significant contrail length reduction through an optimal selection of altitude and true airspeed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6253
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Contrail formulation
  • Flight time
  • Fuel consumption
  • Multi-objective optimisation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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