Birds have been able to boost the distance they're able to fly by more than 70 percent though the use of the V-shape. Scientists have discovered that when a flocks takes on the familiar V-formation, when one bird flaps its wings it creates a small updraft that lifts the bird behind. As each bird passes, they add their own energy to the stroke helping all the birds maintain flight. By rotating their order through the stack, they spread out the exertion.
A group of researchers at Stanford University thinks passenger airlines could realize fuel savings by taking the same tactic. The team, lead by Professor Ilan Kroo, envisions scenarios where jets from West Coast airports meet up and fly in formation en route to their East Coast destinations. By traveling in a V-shape with planes taking turns in front as birds do, Kroo and his researchers think aircraft could use 15 percent less fuel compared to flying solo.