The creation of a joint airspace over Europe is the largest climate protection project ever undertaken in the European aviation sector. A Single European Sky (SES) would enable Lufthansa alone to cut its annual fuel consumption by about 270,000 tonnes – enough to fly an Airbus A380 from Frankfurt to San Francisco and back about 1,000 times. Current flight routes over Europe, which are dictated by national interests, force aircraft to fly detours averaging 42 km per flight. Implementation of a Single European Sky could reduce CO2 emissions by ten per cent and save airlines five billion euros, which could be more meaningfully invested.
In an effort to realise the vision of a Single European Sky by 2020, the EU Commission and Eurocontrol (the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation), launched the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) Programme back in 2008. The aim was to standardise European air traffic management with the aid of new technologies, procedures and standards. At present, the Lufthansa Group is actively involved in more than 50 SESAR projects. Specialists from the various Group airlines contribute the expertise they have gained across a wide range of areas such as route planning, operations control and training, as well as IT and finance. Under the Free Route Airspace Maastricht & Karlsruhe (FRAMaK) SESAR demonstration project, shorter routes have been implemented since December 2012 in the upper airspace over Germany, Benelux and parts of the North Sea, resulting in long-term fuel savings. Since mid-2013, 199 direct routings have been available. These are used by an average of 229 Lufthansa flights per day.
But why – despite the obvious advantages – has the SES made so little progress? All the necessary tools, technologies and procedures have long since been in place, yet the EU member states still cling to the status quo based on national boundaries – and, above all, to national air traffic control systems and the revenue they generate from fees. Each individual state can block any steps to optimise air traffic management in Europe as a whole. This design flaw in the SES legal framework, which the Lufthansa Group and other airlines have pointed out repeatedly, must be removed as soon as possible. You may click for pictures here.