Airspace efficiency improvements by NATS and FABEC states result in lower fuel burn and emissions for airlines
Mon 13 Aug 2018 – UK air traffic services company NATS reports more than 200,000 tonnes of aircraft CO2 emissions were saved last year as a result of improvements from more fuel efficient ways of using UK airspace. NATS calculates the reduction has saved airlines more than £30 million ($38m) in annual fuel costs over the year and resulted in an overall cut of 6.4% in CO2 per flight since 2008. Progress has been achieved by using more direct routes and improved vertical profiles, the use of continuous instead of stepped climbs and descents, and the introduction of new air traffic management technologies. Meanwhile, almost 13,000 tonnes of airline CO2 emissions have been saved as a result of seasonal arrangements between six European air navigation service providers (ANSPs) in charge of the FABEC airspace.
In the UK, NATS has introduced over 30 procedural changes in the past year in an effort to find better and more efficient routes for airlines in the upper airspace. In addition, upgrades to the GAATS+ system that controllers at NATS’ Prestwick control centre use to manage transatlantic traffic enabled 147,160 tonnes of CO2 savings by allowing aircraft to fly more efficient routes.
The company says priority has been given to handing more environmental data to operational staff. Last year, it began sharing data with individual teams of controllers, using ‘nudge theory’ principles to allow them to compare performance and share ideas for improvements.
“It’s now been a decade since our environmental programme was launched and driven by the passion and enthusiasm of our employees, we have achieved some ambitious improvements in how our airspace is managed. These are delivering big benefits both to our airline customers and the wider environment,” said Ian Jopson, NATS’ Head of Environment and Community Affairs.
“As our airspace gets busier, we will continue to work with our airport partners and local communities to help address issues around noise, and to deliver the major airspace modernisation programme the UK needs to meet our future capacity and sustainability aspirations.”
The airspace of the six FABEC (Functional Airspace Block Europe Central) countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland – is one of the busiest and most complex in the world. However, the intensity of air traffic varies throughout the year and there is normally a smaller volume of traffic during the winter months.
This has enabled individual FABEC air traffic control centres the opportunity to use improved flight profiles with their neighbouring units during this period and bring about reductions in fuel burn and CO2 emissions. Overall, the ANSPs have improved over 111 flight profiles and identified another 42 for possible implementation.
FABEC says flexible airspace management has increased considerably in its airspace, with daily improved international cooperation.