Aircraft flying in European airspace last year poured thousands of tonnes of global-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) into the sky unnecessarily, according to the Eurocontrol Performance Review Commission (PRC) report on calendar year 2006 (PRR 2006), due to be published in the next few days.
This excess of emissions results from inefficiencies in the continent’s air traffic control (ATC) systems, which mean every flight travels nearly 50km further through the air than it needs to in order to reach its destination, the PRC reports.
Having just been presented with the PRR 2006, the Eurocontrol Council has set ATC service providers the target of eliminating this problem between 2007 and 2010, saving an estimated 2.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and reducing airline costs by a billion Euros.
This waste is the equivalent of 5,500 flights around the earth, says Eurocontrol, and represents 5.9% of the average European trip distance. Last year’s PRC report on 2005 made clear that the main reason for European ATC inefficiency is “fragmentation” – the division of air traffic management (ATM) into poorly coordinated national units, the performance of which varies considerably.
The European Commission-approved plan for a highly coordinated Single European Sky (SES) system is intended to deal with many of the causes of ATM inefficiency.
The PRR 2006 will also show that ATC-caused delay has risen for the third successive year, says Eurocontrol. En-route delay is running at 1.1min per flight, says Eurocontrol director general Victor Aguado but he says reducing this to 1min is “achievable”.
When delays to air traffic flow management (ATFM) caused by aircraft management on the ground at airports is added into the equation, the PRC reports, the total ATM-caused delay is 1.9min.
The Eurocontrol Council “urges states, air navigation service providers and military authorities to fully implement local capacity and network programmes” to improve their efficiency.
Meanwhile there is still a divergence of ATC safety standards across Eurocontrol’s 37 member states, says the PRC, and all of them have been given until 2008 to raise their standards to a defined level of performance measured against a safety management system.