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A plane or a goose? Why one may mimick the other

Tuesday - 9/18/2012, 4:07am  ET

Dick Uliano, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Aircraft designers are paying close attention to the way geese fly.

When geese take flight, they lumber off of the water's surface. Within moments they're in a straightening line that arches and bends. Suddenly they're soaring in a perfect V formation, where the flock can move faster and fly longer than a single bird.

It's a law of nature and a concept that Airbus engineers are weighing as they design the passenger planes of the future.

According to ExtremeTech, Airbus designers are exploring the concept of computer-controlled planes that can fly close together. The pilot would still be on the flight deck, but the computer would smooth out any natural pilot error.

Aviation engineers say passenger jets flying in a computerized close-formation V pattern, like geese, would save billions of dollars in fuel costs each year. The aircraft also would pump less harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The engineers say flight times would be trimmed by 13 minutes or more because of reductions in air resistance.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)