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Eurocontrol, IATA and CANSO commit to cutting airline fuel usage

The airlines, Eurocontrol and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) have signed an agreement to accelerate planned improvements in air traffic management that will deliver reductions in fuel usage and emissions. Director general of the International Air Transport Association Giovanni Bisignani, Eurocontrol's director general David McMillan and CANSO's secretary general Alexander ter Kuile met at the International Civil Aviation Organisation's Montreal, Canada headquarters on 9 September to formalise the pact, which they estimate could reduce fuel consumption by 470,000t and emissions by more than 1.5 million tonnes a year in European airspace alone.

Planned improvements involve improved co-operation between airlines, air navigation service providers (ANSP) and the states that (in most cases) own and control them, the military, and airport operators. The benefits of research done in the recently completed SESAR definition phase to prepare for the Single European Sky, plus the motivation provided by oil price rises and potential harm to national economies are providing the impetus needed to bring all the parties together to improve ATM and aircraft operating efficiencies.

Eurocontrol sums up the agreed measures, including:
  • Cutting route distances, especially between the "most penalised" city pairs
  • Initial implementation of free route airspace
  • Improving flight planning quality
  • Working with the military and other agencies to ensure that airspace restrictions apply only when and where required
  • Implementing advanced navigation capabilities in aircraft to enable them to take advantage of improved terminal airspace procedures and design
  • Implementation of continous descent approaches and optimised departure profiles
  • Optimising airport ground operational efficiencies through the application of collaborative decision-making networks
  • Ensuring airlines and crews know the latest operational techniques for optimum performance.

Together these measures should provide an annual fuel-saving to the airlines worth £390 million ($680 million), says Eurocontrol. McMillan comments: "It is a win-win: together we are addressing the impact of the increasing price of fuel while also reducing the impact of aviation on the environment."

Meanwhile, the issue of airspace-use efficiencies is climbing ICAO's agenda, with a six-day seminar taking place in Montreal on 15-20 September on "The economics of airports and air navigation service providers", following directly on from a just-completed conference there aimed at ensuring the harmonisation of Europe's SESAR and the USA's NextGen ATM systems.