Reducing CO2 emissions through airspace and procedure changes

Our strategic environmental target is to reduce ATM CO2 emissions by an average 10% per flight by 2020, from a 2006 baseline. Our interim target is to achieve an average 4% per flight reduction by 2015.

Central to this are two major airspace initiatives:

  • London airspace management programme (LAMP)
  • Northern terminal control area (NTCA) redesign

These will modernise airspace around London and major cities in northern England – where traffic levels are highest, route interactions most complex and the impact on flight efficiency is greatest. Successful modernisation of this critical airspace can significantly save fuel burn and CO2 emissions, equivalent to c. 5% of our target.

Near-term measures

Since 2009 we have made more than 100 operational and procedural changes in air traffic flows in the Swanwick, Prestwick and Oceanic regions. These have saved an estimated 115,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions – a fuel saving worth £22 million.

Most of the changes take the form of more direct routes or changes to procedures. For example:

  • Increased access to military airspace in Wales providing more fuel efficient routes for aircraft flying to and from Ireland and North America – bringing savings of 300 tonnes of fuel (1,000 tonnes of CO2) a year.
  • A new route through military airspace in south-west England for weekend and night-time flights to and from Ireland – saving around 150 tonnes of fuel (480 tonnes of CO2) a year.

UK-Ireland Functional Airspace Block

This was the first FAB to be established under the Single European Sky initiative. It has been operational since July 2008 and is creating substantial improvements. From 2008 to 2011 it is estimated to have enabled 48,000 tonnes fuel savings, that’s 152,000 tonnes CO2.

The centrepiece of the FAB Plan 2011-14 is a set of projects to optimise domestic, North Atlantic and European traffic (ODNET), which focus on ways to reduce emissions and fuel burn, including:

  • En Route Shannon Upper Airspace Redesign (ENSURE). The removal of fixed routes in Shannon Upper Airspace since 2009 allow direct routing and flight planning from entry point to exit. There are estimated annual savings of 2.2 million kms flown, 14,800 tonnes fuel and 46,800 tonnes CO2.
  • Fuel Saving Routes. The continuing introduction of flight-plannable direct routes, especially at night, which reduce the distance flown and fuel burn. These are estimated to save 5,700 tonnes fuel and 18,100 tonnes CO2 per year.

Longer-term airspace developments

Airspace above the UK has developed piece by piece over the past 50 years and now needs fundamental reshaping so modern aircraft can perform efficiently and we can manage the airspace better. The LAMP and NTCA programmes will do just that.

We have several airspace developments planned for phased implementation between 2015 and 2020. The aim is to:

  • Exploit aircraft abilities to fly precise trajectories, enabling greater flexibility in airspace design through closely spaced arrival and departure routes independent of ground-based navigation aids.
  • Locate routes where they best meet the needs of airports and flight profiles, making far better use of finite terminal airspace and providing greater opportunities to mitigate environmental impacts.
  • Enable continuous descent approaches and continuous climb departures to be flown from and to significantly higher altitudes than available today.
  • Prepare for widespread deployment of advanced technologies such as queue management tools (arrival and departure management), to achieve efficient sequencing on busy runways and eliminate holding in normal operations.

In parallel, we are supporting a joint project with the CAA to raise the Transition Altitude (TA) across the UK/Irish FAB. This will bring environmental benefits, mainly through more efficient standard departure and arrival routes.


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