Air traffic

Air traffic management: the fruit of decarbonization within easy reach?

Of all the measures, proposals, technologies and potential advancements discussed at the Airbus Sustainability Summit this month in Toulouse, improving air traffic management was clearly highlighted as the most mature immediate initiative. and the most ready to reduce the carbon impact. With a new trial underway under the auspices of the European Union’s Single European Sky research program, SESAR, now appears to be the time to act on ATM.

Thierry Harquin, senior engineering manager in charge of international ATM cooperation at Airbus, explained during the event that “In a post-COVID world, we all realize that a return to normalcy will only be possible with aviation more sustainable. ATM is one of the four pillars identified by all aviation stakeholders in the Destination 2050 roadmap to decarbonize aviation.

“ATM optimization could contribute to a 6-10% reduction in CO2 emissions generated by aviation in Europe today,” Harquin suggested. Destination 2050 itself quotes 6%, Harquin is not exaggerating to say “this is huge: this is ambitious, but we think we can do it.” But we cannot do it alone: ​​we need partners, we need a lot of collaboration between all these partners – our customers the airlines, the air navigation service providers all over Europe and elsewhere, the airports, the industry, but also research institutes.

Destination 2050 report divides this further [PDF, p53] as advanced flight planning software contributing 2.6-3% savings, with enhanced flight management systems adding 3-4%.

The end goals include trajectory-based operations, which give predictability around an aircraft’s direction, not just where it was, which was the reality in the procedural and radar past.


The end goals also include reducing the need to circle in arrival holding lanes by slowing down instead while cruising (system-wide information management, SWIM and collaborative decision making, CDM ), as well as the optimization of the flight route for emissions (free route airspace, FRA, or flexible use of airspace, FUA, sometimes advanced flexible use of airspace, AFUA).

“We have worked on many projects in Europe as part of the SESAR, ATM research for the Single European Sky, program, ”Harquin said. “This is a collaborative effort in which Airbus leads certain projects and also follows certain projects with all these actors to modernize the ATM of tomorrow.”

This “ATM of tomorrow” was, thanks to an Airbus A320ceo test on the flight bringing the participants to the Airbus summit in Paris, the “ATM of this Tuesday”. (There are many TGV inOui full-service and Cheap Ouigo Paris-Toulouse high-speed trains in just 4h30.) Air France and the air navigation service providers carried out a first demonstration test under the aegis of the vast SESAR program ALBATROSS project.

“At the end of the flight, we saved around five percent of CO2 emissions,” explained Laurent Lafontan, senior vice-president of technical development for flight operations at Air France, who praised the “ collaboration between the air navigation service provider with dynamic airspace management. ”.

Lafontan highlighted single-engine taxi, optimized vertical flight paths, the ability to choose the most efficient flight level during cruise and continuous descent as differences that totaled the five percent, noting that if the carrier had could perform the flight “in the most efficient manner, we would be able to reduce around 7-10% of CO2 emissions. “

10% is no small feat, and given that much of the benefit can be concentrated upstream in the relatively short term, improving air traffic management as soon as possible seems almost obvious.

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Featured image credited to Air France

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