ATM efficiency is a “green” prerequisite
Perhaps the fastest way to help European aviation meet its decarbonisation plan is through air traffic management and aircraft operations, which together represent one of the four pillars of the EU response. industry to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Effective implementation of ATM efficiencies could lead to a significant reduction in CO2 and a major contribution to the effort to achieve the intermediate objectives within 15 years.
European aviation sustainability initiative Destination 2050 identifies a path to net zero CO2 by 2050 through a combination of four key measures. In addition to ATM efficiency, the other three “pillars” are to improve aircraft and engine technologies, which could reduce emissions by 37%; the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), which are estimated to reduce emissions by 34%; and the implementation of economic measures that could lead to reductions of 8%.
For the European ATM sector, the challenge is to make every journey as environmentally friendly as possible and achieve the “perfect green flight”. In a white paper published by Eurocontrol, a significant step towards this end could actually happen simply through better use of existing measures, with all actors working together more effectively.
Even without accounting for major technological leaps such as hybrid/all-electric or hybrid/all-hydrogen aircraft, the agency estimates that per flight, more efficient use of existing tools could eliminate up to 4,286 kg of CO2 (25.8%) by 2030 compared to 2019, on an average of 16,632 kg of CO2 for a total flight in the enlarged European space (ECAC – European Civil Aviation Conference, composed of 44 States including the 41 Eurocontrol Member States).
Better use of fuel-efficient air traffic management improvements could deliver 8.6% to 11.2% (up to 1,863 kg) of these reduced CO emissions2 emissions per flight. To realize the benefits, accelerating the transition from European research and development through the SESAR modernization program to deployment as well as maximizing network operation and performance improvements will require cooperative decision-making (CDM) network-centric that engages all network actors.
Air traffic controllers manage the airspace over Southern Germany from /DFS facilities in Munich. (Photo: DFS)
These reductions will increase massively as emerging breakthrough developments (electric, hydrogen or hybrid aircraft) enter commercial service, although the two most promising near-term fuels/CO2 savings accelerators arise from the further use of Continuous Climb/Descent Operations (CCO/CDO) and Free Route Airspace (FRA) currently being implemented, where air navigation service providers ( ANSP), airlines, airports, flight plan service providers and the Eurocontrol Network Manager all play a key role.
Many measures have been launched under the European Commission’s Single European Sky (SES) initiative, with European ANSPs already implementing more than three-quarters of the initial FRA, mandated by the end of 2022 under EU regulations. The FRA environment allows airspace users to plan more efficient flight paths between defined entry and exit points and, when fully implemented on a European scale, the potential savings could reach 3 000 tons of fuel per day and 10,000 less CO emissions.2 tons per day. The resulting efficiency gains could result in distance savings of up to 500,000 nautical miles and €3 million in fuel costs.
The take-off phase offers a number of potential improvements, of which CCO generates the greatest environmental benefit. Air traffic controllers should, where possible, clear flights to climb, avoid unnecessary level-offs and allow more fuel-efficient CCOs. A 2018 Eurocontrol study showed that optimizing the CCO and CDO phases could save airlines up to 350,000 tonnes of fuel per year, which corresponds to more than one million tonnes of CO2 and 150 million euros in fuel costs. Another Eurocontrol study carried out during the Covid-19 crisis showed that the average level time during descent fell by 33%, suggesting that a CDO target of 30% could be reasonable once traffic returns to normal. the normal.
Improved network flight planning offers more direct flights
Over the past year, Eurocontrol Network Manager’s Flight Efficiency Working Group has identified more than 4,500 bespoke rerouting proposals. The working group brings together the pan-European agency, airspace users and ANSPs. Its proposals have saved a typical airline over 131,000 nm, around 800,000 kg of fuel and over €113,000 in en route costs while reducing CO emissions.2 emissions of at least 2,514 tonnes.
Eurocontrol NM’s Automated Group Rerouting Tool provides aircraft operators with visibility into possible other network options. The tool displays proposals to the initiator of the flight plan, taking into account its constraints through a set of predefined parameters set by each operator; it also takes into account broader variables such as the weather and the latest network status.
Applied during the pandemic, the improved approach to networked flight planning has enabled more direct and “green” flights thanks to a relaxation of 1,200 flight restrictions – the so-called Route Availability Document (RAD) measures – saving 26,000 nm per day. This also predated Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which closed or restricted airspace, disrupted traffic flows, and canceled and rerouted flights, adding a huge additional layer of complexity to the network situation as summer flight schedules come into effect.
“We are focused on working closely with all aviation partners to optimize trajectories and minimize aviation delays, costs and environmental footprint,” said Iacopo Prissinotti, Director of Network Management at Eurocontrol.
Latam Route Optimization Free Trials Show Great Benefits
Meanwhile, initial results from four end-to-end route optimization trials in Latin America and the Caribbean have demonstrated significant savings in time, fuel and carbon emissions.
Conducted by the CANSO ATFM Data Exchange Network for the Americas (CADENA) as a Planned Airway System Alternative initiative, the trials took place over 90 days in the second half of 2021 and involved one aircraft from one airline on each selected routes. During testing, each aircraft generated significant savings and demonstrated how these savings could be projected per aircraft over the course of a year.
Following their success, the use of the trial routes has now been extended for a year. Airlines can continue to use the routes and benefit from operational savings until they are published in the Aeronautical Information Circulars or Publications (AIC, AIP). The trials involved coordination with a range of stakeholders, including airlines, country ANSPs along each route and regional aviation bodies.
“Savings and CO2 reduction we have seen so far is remarkable and demonstrates the commitment of the aviation community to a sustainable industry,” said Javier Vanegas, Director of Latin America and Caribbean Affairs at CANSO. “The success of the trials has encouraged other airlines to submit more optimized proposals for testing and the CIIFRA project team is now working with States and ANSPs to publish the tested optimized routes in their AIPs. We are encouraged by these developments, and sharing knowledge and developing best practices always strengthens our industry. »