Case Study

Towards green air traffic management with TOPFLIGHT

Environmental Infrastructure

SESAR, a research and innovation programme which aims to modernise the entire European ATM system. SESAR does so by pooling together the knowledge and resources of the entire ATM community, through a public-private partnership, the SESAR Joint Undertaking. As the technological pillar of the Single European Sky, SESAR will enable EU skies to handle three times more traffic, improve safety by a factor of 10, reduce the environmental impact per flight by 10%, and cut ATM costs by 50%.

SesarlogoSESAR and its partners recently undertook the first phase of the TOPFLIGHT demonstration, a trial of environmentally-optimised transatlantic flights using SESAR concepts. Initial predictions envisaged that each flight would save half a tonne of fuel, the equivalent of saving 1.6 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The trial began in May 2013 with 100 British Airways flights flying between London Heathrow and Montreal and covered gate-to-gate phases of the flights.

Participants included NATS, the UK’s air navigation service provider (ANSP), in partnership with NAVCANADA, the Canadian ANSP, British Airways, Airbus ProSky, Barco and Boeing. Initial results showed that some flights saved more than a tonne of fuel each. 65% of savings coming from the use of free routing and flexible use of airspace in the UK and Canada, 30% from cruise climb and variable March used over the ocean and 5% from continuous climb operations and continuous descent arrivals. In February, final Phase 1 results from NATS revealed that 25% of the trial flights were able to achieve every element of optimisation, while 70% achieved at least 50% optimisation.

The trial proved successful and showed that the SESAR concept can provide environmental benefits for transatlantic flights.

The Phase 2 trials, which began in April 2014, focus on the use of a Cross Border Arrival Manager (XMAN) for London Heathrow arrivals. These trials, conducted in partnership with Eurocontrol, the French ANSP DSNA and the Irish Aviation Authority, aim to reduce orbital holding at Heathrow by up to 2 minutes and are enabled by innovative System Wide Information Management (SWIM) web-services.