Tue 9 Sept 2008 – The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) and Eurocontrol have signed a five-point Flight Efficiency Plan that will implement short-term measures to reduce annual fuel consumption in European airspace by 470,000 tonnes, saving an estimated 1.55 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. Airlines hope to be able to trim their fuel bills by around 390 million euros based on today’s prices.
A six-month work programme will be implemented immediately with IATA’s member airlines, air navigation service providers (ANSPs), airports, the military and EU states. The measures are expected to ensure a tangible improvement of the European airspace design for both en-route and terminal areas as well as improvements in airspace and airport utilization.
The Flight Efficiency Plan will focus on five areas:
1. Enhancing European en-route airspace design through annual improvement of European ATS routes network, with high priority being given to:
* implementation of a coherent package of annual improvements and shorter routes;
* improving efficiency for the most penalized city pairs;
* implementation of additional Conditional Routes for main traffic flows; and
* supporting initial implementation of free route airspace.
A potential reduction in distance flown of 0.1% has been identified – equivalent to 4 million nautical miles per year – with potential savings of 20 million euros per year.
2. Improving airspace utilization and route network availability through:
* actively supporting and involving aircraft operators and the computer flight plan service providers in flight plan quality improvements;
* gradually applying route availability restrictions only where and when required; and
* improving the utilization of civil/military structures.
Potential reductions in distance flown of 0.7% have been identified, equivalent of 30 million nautical miles per year and potential annual savings of 150 million euros.
3. Efficient terminal area design and utilization through:
* implementing advanced navigation capabilities; and
* implementing Continuous Descent Approaches (CDAs), improved arrival/departure routes and optimized departure profiles.
Implementing CDAs at even 20% of Europe’s airports would save 100 million euros annually.
4. Optimizing airport operations through the implementation of airport collaborative decision making. A one minute reduction in taxi times at Europe’s 50 leading airports, for example, would save 120 million euros annually. Although not a signatory to the agreement, ACI Europe, the trade body representing European airports, is understood to have been closely involved with discussions on the Plan.
5. Improving awareness on performance, for example on best practices to save fuel.
IATA comments that between 1999 and 2007, performance improvements to the European Air Traffic Management network led to a 66% drop in flight delays despite a 25% increase in traffic, together with a shortening of routes flown by an average of around 4km. This produced annual savings of 3.5 million tonnes of CO2, it says.
The agreement was signed at ICAO’s ‘Integration and Harmonization of NextGen and SESAR into the Global ATM Framework Forum’ currently being held in Montreal. The SESAR project is the technical cornerstone in achieving the overhaul of Europe’s fragmented ATM system and reach a Single European Sky. According to the European Commission, it promises CO2 savings of 16 million tonnes but the difficulty of reaching a political consensus amongst EU States has proved a major stumbling block to progress over many years.
However, the Flight Efficiency Plan is seen as having little overlap with SESAR and yet is expected to achieve nearly 10% of SESAR’s emissions-reduction target within 18 months.
In a speech to the Forum, IATA’s Giovanni Bisignani called for political leadership to push through the Single European Sky process by the end of this year, with a target date of 2012 for implementation. He said the US NextGen ATM modernization project was also long overdue and “must be a priority” for the next US administration.
He went on to say that the decisions made by the US and Europe were of enormous importance to the global air transport industry. “If you fail to harmonize,” he stated, “airlines will bear the cost and the environment will suffer.”
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