NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air traffic services and solutions, has signed a contract to lead a pioneering project trialling environmentally ‘perfect’ transatlantic flights.
The project, entitled TOPFLIGHT, will look to put into operational practice something that has only previously been possible in single, one-off flights. Phase one will see 60 transatlantic flights where many factors within the journey – from pushback from the stand and taxiing to an optimised flight profile and continuous descent approach – has been optimised to achieve minimal emissions and delay.
It is expected that each optimised trip will save approximately 500kg in fuel – the equivalent to 1.6 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
The British Airways flights will take place between Heathrow and a number of North American airports over the course of four months. The second phase of the project will then look to introduce multiple ‘perfect’ flights crossing the Atlantic simultaneously. The aim is to prove that the concept is scalable and can be implemented for many flights at the same time without penalising those in the surrounding airspace.
TOPFLIGHT is a SESAR project, the technical and operational component of the European Community’s Single European Sky initiative which aims to modernise and harmonise air traffic management systems across Europe.
By 2030, European air traffic is likely to have doubled. SESAR’s aim is to maintain safety levels whilst minimising delay, reducing costs and lowering carbon emissions. TOPFLIGHT will develop, demonstrate and transition to operation, an optimised flight concept based on several elements of the SESAR vision.
NATS has been chosen to lead the delivery of the TOPFLIGHT trial, working alongside members of the aviation industry in the UK,Canada and the United States, including British Airways and NAVCANADA, the Canadian air navigation service provider. Airbus ProSky, Boeing and Barco Orthogon will also contribute with their experience in advanced air traffic management solutions.
In cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) NextGen Implementation Plan, SESAR will look to expand the programme to include flights to Boston Logan International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport, creating a sustainable gate to gate perfect flight concept across theNorth Atlantic.
Martin Rolfe, NATS’ Managing Director, Operations, said: “The TOPFLIGHT project is a great example of the aviation industry working together and we are delighted to be leading it. The industry has an opportunity to improve its environmental performance and the efficiency and fuel savings make great business sense too. It should be a win-win situation for everyone involved.”
It is hoped the project will have a sustainable and lasting impact.
Patrick Ky, Executive Director at the SESAR Joint Undertaking, said: “TOPFLIGHT is an exciting opportunity to prove the ‘perfect’ flight concept is scalable and sustainable in an operational environment. If successful, the trial could have a profound impact on the way the aviation industry works in the future.”
The TOPFLIGHT project will build upon NATS’ successful participation in the Perfect Flight project in 2010, where a single British Airways Heathrow to Edinburgh flight was environmentally optimised, saving a quarter of a tonne of fuel and nearly one tonne of CO2.
The TOPFLIGHT project also builds upon NATS’ significant contribution to the SESAR programme and its successful participation in the Atlantic Interoperability Initiative to Reduce Emissions (AIRE).
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