NATS and IAA extend XMAN initiative to reduce Heathrow holding stacks for flights through Irish airspace
Fri 24 Mar 2017 – The air traffic management system to reduce the fuel-intensive and polluting holding stacks of aircraft arriving into London’s Heathrow Airport, the busiest hub in Europe, has now been fully extended to include flights travelling through Irish airspace. First trialled by UK air navigation service provider (ANSP) NATS in 2014, the XMAN (Cross-Border Arrival Management) system aims to instruct pilots to slow down the speed of their aircraft up to 350 nautical miles from Heathrow to avoid delays and unnecessary fuel burn. NATS, which has also been collaborating with ANSPs in France and the Netherlands, says XMAN is so far delivering over 4,700 tonnes of fuel savings for airlines annually, representing nearly 15,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. It is a key concept of the Single European Sky initiative, which will require 24 airports across Europe to deploy XMAN procedures by 2024.
Before XMAN, air traffic controllers could only influence the speed of an aircraft once it was within the NATS network, just 80nm from Heathrow, so the ability to manage inbound traffic flows was limited. Now, a pilot can be instructed by a controller in the Maastricht control centre in the southern Netherlands to lose a few knots of airspeed through the aircraft’s flight management system.
Under the collaboration with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), new air traffic management functionality is now delivering information on Heathrow delays directly to radar screens in the IAA’s Shannon en-route control centre. IAA controllers can then easily identify when delays are forecast and pro-actively coordinate the Heathrow inbound traffic.
“With approximately 15% of all Heathrow arrivals travelling through Irish airspace, it was important to make it as easy as possible for Irish controllers to help manage traffic flows into Heathrow and we have worked closely together through the UK-Ireland FAB to achieve that,” said Pete Dawson, General Manager London Terminal Control at NATS. “This forms part of our longer-term strategy to minimise the use of holding stacks at Heathrow and shows the importance both parties place on cross-border collaboration to improve the service offered to customers.”
Added Peter Kearney, Director of Operations and Strategy at IAA: “The IAA is extremely pleased to fully implement XMAN as part of our en-route service. We recognise the important fuel, CO2 and cost savings that this will deliver for our customers as they transit from Irish airspace towards arrival at Heathrow. We have also been very conscious of the important benefit for passengers through reduced delays at Heathrow associated with our shared efforts through XMAN.”
XMAN is part of a broader FABEC (Functional Airspace Block Europe Central) and UK-Ireland FAB project aimed at implementing Extended Arrival Management for airports within and close to FABEC airspace. It has been developed by NATS and partnering ANSPs within the Single European Skies ATM Research Programme (SESAR).