Mon 26 Oct 2009 – A new initiative by a coalition of aviation representatives has been launched to cut aircraft noise and emissions, and improve local air quality, at UK airports. The new Departures Code of Practice promotes the environmental benefits of how aircraft can taxi to and from the runway with less than all engines operating. The Code notes that shutting down an engine during taxi-in operations can deliver reductions of 20 to 40 percent of the ground level fuel burn and CO2 emissions, and 10 to 30 percent of ground emitted oxides of nitrogen (NOx), depending on aircraft type and operator technique. The interim Code has been published ahead of the full version early next year that will include advice on using ground power rather than aircraft APUs, as well as procedures such as Continuous Climb Departures and Collaborative Decision Making.
The voluntary code has been compiled by a group representing airlines (British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic), airports (Manchester Airport Group and London’s Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted airports), air traffic control (NATS), the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and ADS, the UK’s aerospace trade body.
The technical document has been primarily written for pilots, flight planners and airport operators, but may also include advice relevant to other stakeholders. It recommends that aircraft operators review their Standard Operating Procedures in order to help promote taxiing with less than all engines operating as long as all safety and procedural concerns are able to be met. For some aircraft types, advice is available from manufacturers, and the document also recommends that manufacturers are involved in the development of engine-out taxi procedures. Shutting down an engine during taxi-in operations should be planned in advance, and accomplished as early as possible during the taxi to obtain the maximum environmental benefits and reduction of fuel burn, says the code.
Jill Brady, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Virgin Atlantic and also Chair of Sustainable Aviation, a UK aviation industry initiative industry, said: “The aviation industry is committed to reducing its environmental impact, not just globally but also locally. Improving local air quality and reducing CO2 emissions are key aims for the Sustainable Aviation coalition, which is why we welcome this Code of Practice.”
Dr Andy Jefferson, Stansted Airport’s Head of Environment, said: “We have helped lead the trialling of this new technique here at Stansted, working very closely with easyJet, so it’s very pleasing to see all our hard work coming to fruition.
“We have already enjoyed significant success with a similar collaborative approach when we developed and subsequently updated the Arrivals Code of Practice, which has led to the introduction of Continuous Descent Approaches at Stansted.
“I also believe the collaborative approach the aviation industry has adopted is the best and most practical way forward. Working together as an industry, we are all able to fully focus on the wide range of issues and challenges the sector faces as we look to satisfy future passenger demand for air travel while at the same time achieving our aim to reduce aircraft noise impacts and meet aviation’s commitment to reduce CO2 emissions from aircraft by 50% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.
“To this end, and to fully utilize the experience and knowledge of all the local participants in the coalition, we’ve now established the Stansted Aircraft Emissions Working Group which has been tasked to determine how the Stansted airlines might best use the recommendations made in this code of practice.”
George Hutton, easyJet’s pilot manager at Stansted, said: “We’ve been working in collaboration with Stansted Airport’s environment team for three years to explore noise and emissions saving strategies. As a result of this work, single-engine taxiing is now part of easyJet’s Standard Operating Procedures almost everywhere we fly to.”
In a report published recently by the House of Commons Transport Committee, MPs said there had been a noticeable variation between UK airports and between airlines in the take up of Continuous Descent Approaches (CDAs) and stated the CAA must adopt a more active role in encouraging the industry to adopt the procedure. “The CAA should monitor the CDA performance of major airports and airlines, publish statistics and promote practices and changes that lead to greater utilization of CDA,” reported the Committee.
In its response to the Committee’s findings on this and other issues concerning the use of UK airspace published today, the UK Government – through the Department for Transport (DfT) – said it continued to endorse the principles set out in the Arrivals Code of Practice.
“The development of CDAs at UK airports, principally at the three London noise designated airports (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted), is now regarded as international best practice and is helping to inform work to develop a global standard at ICAO,” said the Government. “Overall achievement of CDA across these three airports has increased significantly following the wide circulation of the Code. This has brought environmental benefits (both noise and emissions) to local communities. CDA is employed at an increasing number of other UK airports. However, it must be recognised that CDA is not possible under all circumstances at every airport or, in some cases, without whole-scale airspace redesign.”
The Government concluded that it is currently “unconvinced” of the need for the CAA to become more directly involved in monitoring CDA performance and related operational issues at individual airports.
The Government also rejected as impractical another Committee recommendation that air traffic activity over National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty be constrained for “tranquillity” reasons.
The Committee also said the DfT should issue up-to-date Environmental Guidance to the CAA before the end of the year. “The guidance should represent current Government thinking on CO2 and other emissions in relation to transport decision making. The guidance must be clear about the basic policy principles by which the Government expects the CAA to make its airspace assessments,” it stated.
The Government responded that although an update was required in the light of recent policy developments, referring in part to the green light for another runway at Heathrow, it was not possible to update the guidance before the end of 2009 because it first needed to consider what impact its ongoing work towards a new general environmental objective for the CAA, on which it intended to consult later this year, would have on its content.
Once the DfT had issued new environmental guidance to the CAA, the CAA must produce clear and comprehensive new guidance on airspace change for the industry, said the Committee.
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