Eurocontrol demands more efficiency from air traffic management by 2010 - and fewer carbon emissions

Aircraft flying in European airspace last year poured thousands of tonnes of global-warming carbon dioxide into the sky unnecessarily just because of air traffic management inefficiency, according to the Eurocontrol Performance Review Commission (PRC).

The report on calendar year 2006, published on 11 May, shows that air traffic control delays have been increasing for three years in a row, and PRC chairman Keith Williams says that the need to improve ATM efficiency is rising as a priority.

This excess of emissions results from inefficiencies in the continent's ATM systems, which mean every flight travels nearly 50km (27nm) farther through the air than it needs to in order to reach its destination, the PRC reports. 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.

The fuel wasted is the equivalent needed to power 5,500 flights around the earth, says Eurocontrol, and the unnecessary extra distance covered by each aircraft 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 into poorly co-ordinated national units. This year showed an improvement in the number of national regulators and air traffic service providers that have reached an acceptable level according to the "key performance areas" that the PRC measures, but among the 39 Eurocontrol member states there are still 24 regulators and 19 ATS providers that are below the target levels. The areas measured are safety, delays, cost-effectiveness and flight efficiency. All regulators and ATS providers are under pressure to achieve standards in these areas by the end of 2008.

This year's report shows that ATC-caused delay has risen for the third successive year with a traffic increase of 4.1% predicted to continue at about the same rate. The industry sectors that grew fastest were low-cost airlines and business aviation.

En-route summer delay was running at 1.4min per flight compared with the target 1min, and this is up from 1.3min in 2005 and the 1.2min average delay in the two previous years, says the report. Eurocontrol director general Victor Aguado says reducing delay to 1min is "achievable". The Eurocontrol Council has urged "states, air navigation service providers and military authorities to fully implement local capacity and network programmes" to improve their efficiency.

Aircraft waiting for departure 
© Gary Lewis /   

Europe's airlines are wasting tonnes of fuel each year due to ATM shortfalls


Source: Flight International