First flight procedure trial promises reduced fuel burn and emissions in oceanic airspace
SAS Scandinavian Airlines Airbus A330
Thu 17 Apr 2008 – The partners of an Airbus-led project called CRISTAL ITP (In-trail Procedure) have successfully carried out the world’s first in-flight demonstration of a flexible new procedure for oceanic airspace that saves fuel and reduces emissions during cruise.
It enables aircraft to more easily perform altitude changes during cruise, which can significantly improve flight efficiency. When an aircraft is not at its optimal altitude, aircraft fuel consumption and emissions are increased. As fuel is burned, the aircraft weight is reduced and the aircraft then needs to climb to maintain its optimum cruise efficiency. Additionally, favourable winds can be found at higher or lower altitudes.
The demonstration flight took place in Icelandic airspace late last month using Airbus’ own A340 test aircraft and a Scandinavian Airlines A330. Iceland is a unique location where oceanic operations are carried out within radar coverage so ensuring the safety of the trial.
During the test, the A340 performed several altitude changes relative to the SAS A330 using a new aircraft system fitted to the A340 and including an Aviation Communication and Surveillance Systems (ACSS) Traffic Computer. Using this system the pilot was able to receive on his navigation display all the flight identification and positioning information regarding the surrounding aircraft. Based on ADS-B (Automatic Dependant Surveillance – Broadcast), a new air-to-ground and air-to-air surveillance technology used to transmit aircraft information, the system is currently being certified by Airbus.
Currently, such manoeuvres are not often possible in oceanic airspace due to the lack of radar coverage. With the new technology, the flight crew can provide the air traffic controller with accurate information about their position relative to other aircraft. With the In-trail Procedure, the controller will use this information to allow altitude changes with reduced separations, providing more climbing opportunities.
Apart from Airbus and SAS, other partners involved in the trial include ISAVIA and NATS, the ATC providers respectively for Iceland and the UK, and the Eurocontrol CASCADE programme.
The trials are expected to benefit other projects Airbus is supporting that aim to reduce fuel burn and emissions such as the Atlantic Interoperability Initiative to Reduce Emissions (AIRE), a joint initiative between the European Commission and the US Federal Aviation Administration.
In December, a Scandinavian Airlines Airbus A330 carried out the first transatlantic crossing ‘green approach’ landing at Stockholm-Arlanda Airport (see story). As part of AIRE, Continuous Descent Approaches are undergoing testing by SAS in partnership with the airport and LFV, the state-owned operator of Sweden’s airports.