As the emphasis on initiatives that can improve environmental efficiency while simultaneously maintaining economic viability has escalated in recent years, attention has turned to more radical concepts of operation. In particular, the cruiser–feeder concept has shown potential for a new generation, environmentally friendly, air-transport system to alleviate the growing pressure on the passenger air-transportation network. However, a full evaluation of realizable benefits is needed to determine how the design and operation of potential feeder-aircraft configurations impact on the feasibility of the overall concept. This paper presents an analysis of a cruiser–feeder concept, in which fuel is transferred between the feeder and the cruiser in an aerial-refueling configuration to extend range while reducing cruiser weight, compared against the effects of escalating existing technology levels while retaining the existing passenger levels. Up to 14% fuel-burn and 12% operating-cost savings can be achieved when compared to a similar technology-level aircraft concept without aerial refueling, representing up to 26% in fuel burn and 25% in total operating cost over the existing operational model at today’s standard fleet technology and performance. However, these potential savings are not uniformly distributed across the network, and the system is highly sensitive to the routes serviced, with reductions in revenue-generation potential observed across the network for aerial-refueling operations due to reductions in passenger revenue.
McRoberts, R., Early, J. M., Morscheck, F., Price, M., & Korn, B. (2015). Tanker Mission Implication on a Civil Aerial Refuelling Transport System’s Benefit Evaluation. Journal of Aircraft, 52(1), 320-328. https://doi.org/10.2514/1.C032726