UK airspace improvements help NATS reduce carbon emissions but more modernisation required, it warns
Fri 23 Jun 2017 – Air navigation service provider (ANSP) NATS reports that improvements to the design of UK airspace helped save 55,900 tonnes of CO2 in 2016, worth £6.2 million ($8m) in fuel savings for airlines. In 2008, NATS became the first ANSP in the world to set an airspace environmental target and says it is currently tracking at a 5% improvement on a goal to reduce air traffic management (ATM) related CO2 emissions by 10% by 2020. However, warns NATS, it will become more difficult to achieve this unless further efficiencies can be delivered by modernising UK airspace. CO2 savings in the previous year were 157,000 tonnes. In its annual Responsible Business report, NATS says its campaign to increase the use of continuous descent approach (CDA) procedures by aircraft landing at UK airports resulted in an additional 32,070 quieter arrivals in 2016 over 2015.
The ATM CO2 savings have come about following a number of airspace improvements over the past year at higher levels that have made routes more direct and vertically efficient, says NATS, and speed control measures have been introduced to slow aircraft down en-route to avoid holding in congested areas close to airports. Maturing initiatives, such as CDAs, cross-border arrival management, time-based separation and flexible use of airspace are all contributing to the CO2 reduction target, it adds.
As part of efforts within the industry’s Sustainable Aviation coalition to increase the use of CDAs, NATS reports over 810,000 individual quieter arriving flights have taken place since they were introduced. Its CDA Outreach Programme has received a Responsible Business award by Business in the Community for the third year in a row.
“We continue to support and refine CDAs into 14 airports across the UK and we are working with 22 airlines to make this operation more widespread,” says the NATS report. The ANSP says it is continuing to focus as well on enabling continuous climbs for aircraft on departure to minimise fuel burn and noise.
In addition to its voluntary 2020 CO2 reduction target, NATS’ environmental performance is also measured under an initiative called 3Di that it developed in conjunction with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and introduced in 2012. The three-dimensional inefficiency (3Di) methodology measures NATS contribution to shrinking ATM-related CO2 emissions and financially penalises or rewards performance. The lower the 3Di score, the better the performance. NATS average score has crept up over the past two years, reaching 30.3 in 2016 compared to 30.1 the previous year. This is against a tightening by the CAA of the target score to 29.3 in 2016 but, points out NATS, this is within the regulator’s target range for the fifth year in a row.
Acknowledging the impact of noise on people who live under flight paths, NATS says it is developing a new responsible business policy to understand how best to manage this, and is seeking to work more closely and earlier with communities. NATS has been invited by ICAO to lead a task force developing best practice on how to engage communities on the introduction of performance-based navigation technology.
“Our enduring goal is to deliver a safe and efficient air traffic system that provides real value to its users and, above all, a system that operates effectively while limiting and where possible reducing its environmental impact,” commented Ian Jopson, NATS Head of Environmental & Community Affairs. “We’re proud of how far NATS has come, driving social and environmental responsibility through all aspects of our business.”