Speech: Jeff Poole, Director General, CANSO


Geneva - The Director General of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), Jeff Poole, delivered a speech at the Global Sustainable Aviation Summit 2015, where he discussed the role of ANSPs in cutting CO2 emissions.

Thanks to Dirk and the panel for a very interesting discussion on how market based measures, one of the pillars in the industry 4-pillar strategy, will help aviation achieve carbon-neutral growth. I would now like to focus on two of the other pillars – operations and infrastructure – and the role of air traffic management (ATM) in these pillars.

Aircraft and airports are the visible part of the aviation value chain; but it is the invisible part – efficient air traffic management – that enables airlines and airports to provide the connectivity that drives economic and social development and provides access to markets. And it is the important ATM operational efficiencies that help the aviation industry to meet its emissions reduction targets.

New technology, techniques and procedures introduced by ATM are having a major impact.

Along with our industry partners, we have been collating best practice on emissions
reduction by CANSO Members. Some of these are featured in the ATAG publication “Aviation Climate Solutions”.

The case studies highlight three important features: first, ANSPs are delivering efficiency improvements and emissions reductions in all phases of flight; second, there is real innovation in striving to squeeze every possible efficiency out of airspace; and third, everything is measurable, with figures given for emissions (and sometimes noise) reductions.

Of course, ATM is not achieving this all by itself. We are working in close cooperation with ICAO and our industry partners to transform global ATM performance. CANSO plays an important role in developing programmes and initiatives to help ANSPs improve efficiency and reduce emissions with: development of policy and guidance on reducing emissions; enabling the sharing of best practice among ANSPs; input to the emissions reduction programmes of our industry partners; seminars and workshops; and publication of best practice guides.

I do not have the time this morning to cover all the ATM case studies that are helping reduce emissions for aviation but I would like to pick out three examples.


Shortening routes

One obvious area where ATM can help aircraft reduce emissions is enabling them to fly the shortest routes between airports. Traditionally, aircraft are required to fly along fixed routes that are not necessarily the shortest; so CANSO and the ATM industry have been focusing on providing more flexibility for aircraft to fly more efficient routes.

The Free Route Airspace initiative allows users to plan a route between defined entry and exit points without being limited to a fixed route network. Aircraft can thus take the shortest possible flight path. This is being trialled successfully in Europe where, for example, Hungarian air navigation service provider (ANSP), HungaroControl, will save 16,000 tonnes of CO2 annually for airspace users; and German ANSP, DFS, will save 30,000 tonnes of CO2 annually in its Free Route Airspace Maastricht and Karlsruhe (FRAMaK) project. 

Saving fuel and emissions through flying at optimum altitude

As well as horizontal efficiencies we have also been looking at vertical efficiencies to save fuel use and reduce emissions. During a flight the weight of the aircraft decreases as fuel is consumed. This means that the most efficient flight level becomes higher. Traditionally, flights have had to maintain a fixed speed and altitude over oceanic airspace.

Canadian ANSP, NAV CANADA’s ‘Engage’ initiative has been testing the viability over the North Atlantic of progressive or continuous altitude change and corresponding change in aircraft speed. This allows aircraft to fly the most efficient flight profile reducing emissions 1-2 percent per flight and saving 500 to 1,000 kgs of CO2 per flight.

Reducing delays

Delays are a source of frustration right across the industry. They waste fuel and cause unnecessary emissions. Collaborative decision-making between airlines, airports and air traffic management has considerably reduced delays already and the ATM industry is trialling some truly innovative ideas to reduce delays further.

One such is time-based separation of aircraft, developed by UK ANSP, NATS, and Lockheed Martin.

Traditionally controllers separate flights by set distances, dependent on aircraft type and the wake vortex they create. However, during strong headwinds aircraft fly slower over the ground, resulting in extra time between each arrival, reducing the landing rate and causing delays and cancellations.

At Heathrow the normal rate of around 40 aircraft landing an hour can drop to 32 on windy days.

In a study of over 150,000 flights, NATS found that wake vortices dissipate quicker in windy 3 conditions. They have therefore been able to develop a system to safely separate aircraft on final approach using a time-based method that will halve current headwind delays.


I would like to close by making a plea to States, which have such an important role to play in helping the industry reduce its emissions. States need to invest in infrastructure, specifically ATM infrastructure, as this will improve the efficiency of the entire aviation system, reduce emissions and cater for future growth. Investment in ATM infrastructure not only benefits the environment, but acts as an enabler of aviation connectivity and development, bringing economic and social benefits.

ICAO’s Aviation System Block Upgrades (ASBU) serve as a catalyst for States to modernise their air navigation services and we encourage States to take advantage of the help on offer from both ICAO and CANSO to implement the ASBUs.

States also need to work better together to reduce airspace fragmentation across the wider region and free up military airspace.

Getting these messages across to governments, decision-makers and the general public is critical if we are to avoid onerous regulation on the environment. So, we need to continue to ensure strong communication on what has already been achieved; the great work on further improvements that is underway; and the compelling evidence that the industry is meeting its challenging environmental commitments. That is what this Summit is all about.

ATM might be the invisible part of the aviation value chain but the environmental benefits  that ATM is delivering are very clear. I hope that the examples I have given today and the  ATM case studies in the ATAG publication “Aviation Climate Solutions” demonstrate the vital role that ATM is playing in the industry’s efforts to reduce emissions.

Thank you.