NATS 2012 Corporate Responsibility report lays out strategy for sustainable aviation in the UK

NATS 2012 Corporate Responsibility report lays out strategy for sustainable aviation in the UK

21 March 2012

Today NATS, the UK’s leading air traffic services provider and a global supplier of aviation solutions, released its 2012 Corporate Responsibility report which outlines NATS’ commitment to driving the sustainable aviation agenda in the UK.

The report, which is the third Corporate Responsibility report since 2008, chronicles the progress NATS has made since becoming the first air traffic management company in the world to calculate CO2 emissions in its airspace and set a target to reduce air traffic related CO2 by an average 10% per flight by 2020.  To focus the company further on this goal, NATS has recently introduced another world first — 3Di, an entirely new environmental performance metric which has taken NATS three years to develop.

3Di, the 3-Dimensional inefficiency score, is a flight efficiency metric which extends the existing European horizontal flight efficiency metric to include vertical elements.  3Di seeks to account for the benefits delivered as a result of air traffic controllers delivering continuous climb departures, cruise levels as requested by airspace users and continuous descents, as well as most direct point to point routeings.

Working with airline customers and the UK regulator, NATS has integrated 3Di into its performance analytics and, as of January 1, 2012, became the first ANSP to be financially incentivised on environmental performance.

Richard Deakin CEO NATS

Richard Deakin CEO NATS

Under the incentive regime, if NATS meets its targets it could be worth up to £120 million in fuel cost savings to airlines at today’s prices, or around 600,000 tonnes of CO2 over the next three years.

“Fuel burn has always been a major cost to airlines. With the introduction of aviation into the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, emissions will now be an additional cost,” said Richard Deakin, Chief Executive Officer, NATS.

“NATS has led the way by developing and committing ourselves to 3Di, a financially incentivised environmental performance metric that will support the industry in reducing costs and reducing environmental impact.”

In addition to introducing the 3Di metric, the Corporate Responsibility report highlights the steps NATS has already taken towards making aviation sustainable, including:

  • NATS has 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 £22m.
  • In 2011 alone NATS delivered over 26 changes at Swanwick and Prestwick, enabling fuel savings of over 19,000 tonnes fuel, worth almost £13m and saving 60,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
  • The UK-Ireland FAB – the first to be established under the Single European Sky initiative – has now been operational since July 2008 and is estimated to have enabled 48,000 tonnes fuel savings, that’s 152,000 tonnes CO2.
  • A new generation of advanced controller support tools became fully operational at Swanwick in November 2011. iFACTS, based on Trajectory Prediction and Medium Term Conflict Detection, provides decision-making support and helps controllers manage their routine workload, allowing the controller to check better climb profiles so an aircraft reaches cruising levels sooner and with fewer step climbs.
  • In 2011, NATS established local environment action plans for the 15 airport ATC units where NATS provides the air traffic control service.  During 2012 NATS will complete the work to create a baseline figure for environmental performance at each airport unit and quantify, for the first time, the contribution the airport units collectively can make to NATS’ overall 10% CO2 reduction target.

NATS remains dedicated to supporting aviation by enabling tools and technologies to improve the environmental performance of traffic in UK airspace.  Working closely with partners in the industry, NATS is making progress minimising the environmental impact of air traffic management to enable the sustainable growth of the industry.

About 3Di

The 3Di score is a flight efficiency metric which extends the existing European horizontal flight efficiency metric to include vertical elements.  Vertical flight efficiency is calculated as the difference between the actual flight profile, separately for climb, descent and cruise periods of flight and a modelled ideal flight based on the cruise altitude requested.  Vertical and horizontal flight efficiency are combined based on their estimated relative impact on fuel burn.  The resulting metric seeks to account for the benefits delivered as a result of air traffic controllers delivering continuous climb departures, cruise levels as requested by airspace users and continuous descents – as well as most direct point to point routings.

Since the start of 2010 the 3Di score has been calculated for each flight in UK airspace and further large samples of operations have been analysed for every year going back to 2006.  It has been derived using regression analysis and comprises factors relating to track extension and vertical inefficiency and the interaction between them to predict fuel efficiency for a flight.  The calculation of daily 3Di Scores for 2010 involved computations on around 1 billion radar data points.  As part of the process of testing the 3Di score’s performance in the UK network, a perfect flight trial was undertaken between Heathrow and Edinburgh in a collaborative activity between NATS, British Airways and the airport operator BAA.  The 3Di Score for the trial flight was 1.4 units (compared to the average of 22.1 for the same aircraft on that route). Corresponding fuel savings of around 12% were identified in the aircraft Flight Data Recorder and computed using the NATS KERMIT emissions modelling system.

As part of the analysis to develop 3Di, which occupied more than three full time environmental staff for two and a half years, NATS was able to put forward a performance scheme proposal to its regulator and customers in August 2011.  This proposal was based on painstaking computations on a year and a half of historical monitoring data.  Throughout this process, NATS Operational staff were closely involved to understand ways that 3Di reductions can be targeted during the period out to 2015.

During 2011, the 3Di Score was assessed against the agreed metric criteria agreed with airlines and the regulator, and deemed suitable for financial regulation as part of the NATS UK en-route licence to operate air traffic services.

About NATS

  • NATS is the UK’s major provider of Air Traffic Management (ATM) services, handling 2.2 million flights in 2011, covering the UK and eastern North Atlantic.
  • NATS provides air traffic control from centres at Swanwick, Hampshire and Prestwick, Ayrshire.
  • NATS also provides air traffic control services at 15 of the nation’s major airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow, together with air traffic services at Gibraltar Airport.
  • NATS was the first ATM provider in the world to set an environmental target to reduce CO2 emissions for aircraft under its control by an average 10% per flight by 2020.
  • NATS is also the first ATM provider to develop and implement an environmental measure as part of its regulatory framework.
  • NATS has tested the “perfect flight” in which every element of the journey – from pushback, taxi and continuous climb to an optimised flight profile and continuous descent approach – was calibrated to achieve minimal emissions and delay, saving around 11% of the normal fuel burn.
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