British Airways and NATS to conduct summer trial of environmentally optimised transatlantic flights
(photo: British Airways)
Mon 24 June 2013 – The UK’s air navigation service provider NATS and British Airways have started a trial of 60 optimised transatlantic flights over the course of the summer, with each flight planned to save up to half a tonne of fuel, equivalent to 1.6 tonnes of CO2. The flights are part of TOPFLIGHT, a project led by NATS under the SESAR programme, the technical and operational component of the EU’s Single European Sky initiative, and co-funded by SESAR Joint Undertaking. Every element of each flight, from push-back to climb and descent profile and routing, has been designed to test the SESAR concept, minimise fuel burn and maximise efficiency. The first flight took place at the end of May between London Heathrow and Canada following six weeks of cockpit simulation work.
Some elements of flight trials are already part of everyday practice by NATS controllers, such as the use of continuous climb departures but others have required new procedures such as giving aircraft an initial oceanic profile before departing Heathrow. As well as the fuel and CO2 savings, TOPFLIGHT is also an opportunity for NATS and the project’s other partners – NAVCANADA, Airbus ProSky, Boeing and Barco Orthogon, with added support from the Irish Aviation Authority – to review and provide feedback on the feasibility, benefits and scalability of the SESAR concept more widely.
The initial results of the project are expected this autumn, with further trials planned for the winter to focus on reducing holding at Heathrow through the use of the cross-border Arrival Management, or XMAN, concept, which is aiming to help optimise the traffic flows into major FABEC (Functional Airspace Block Europe Central) hubs.
“One-off trials, such as the NATS Perfect Flight project in 2010, have already proven the level of benefit that can be achieved in isolation, but these wider trials are an exciting opportunity to look at how we might implement these ideas for multiple flights in a real life operational environment,” commented NATS Project Manager Joe Baker. “TOPFLIGHT will therefore develop and assess procedures that assist NATS controllers in providing a service that further minimises the environmental impact of aviation.”