Helping aviation meet the environmental challenges

Environmental Infrastructure

One of the biggest challenges facing aviation today is to develop by 2020 technologies and procedures which will allow the global civil aviation industry to grow without increasing its carbon footprint. Surprisingly, most changes have come about not through disruptive tools such as biofuels or all-composite aircraft, but from building on flight performance.

EUROCONTROL has a vital role in the process, gathering relevant data, building capacity among stakeholders to deal with environmental challenges and strongly supporting initiatives with the potential to reduce environmental impact, most notably the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) programme.

According to the 2016 European Aviation Environmental Report: “It is expected that, between 2015 and 2018, the planned European deployment of ‘Block 0’ of the Aviation System Block Upgrades, facilitated through the SESAR Deployment Phase, could result in fuel savings of between 0.8 to 1.6 million tonnes per year, equivalent to 2.5-5.0 million tonnes of CO2.”

The report also highlights the significant improvements which individual ATM flight efficiency programmes will deliver. For example, free-route operations, an initiative which EUROCONTROL has pioneered for many years, have been identified as the single most important en-route airspace improvement programme for the coming years. If free-route airspace operations were fully implemented across Europe, says the report, the distance saved could amount to approximately 46,300 km per day (16.9 million km per year), representing annual savings of 45,000 tonnes of fuel and 150,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

One key role which EUROCONTROL has taken on has been to develop a set of robust, environmental-impact forecasts which industry stakeholders can use to assess the future environmental impact of their operations, and begin the process of ensuring their own organisations will have policies in place to meet the targets which have been agreed at government level.

“We want to be able to provide data of record, as unbiased and as independent as possible, following best practice with methodologies that have been stress-tested and approved within ICAO,” says Andrew Watt, Head of the Support to SES-related Policies Unit within EUROCONTROL Directorate Pan-European Single Sky. “The idea has been to provide a comprehensive suite of impact assessment capabilities that cover noise, local air quality, fuel burn and greenhouse gas emissions. The next phase is going to be looking at things like particulate matter, helicopter noise, third-party risk.”

At the end of 2016, EUROCONTROL will publish its first environmental forecast to accompany its long-term traffic forecast. The key to this is the Aircraft Assignment Tool developed collaboratively by EUROCONTROL, the European Commission and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), to generate and map future fleet onto the traffic forecast. This data is then injected into the EUROCONTROL IMPACT integrated aircraft noise and emissions modelling platform to generate the environmental forecast – which will initially focus on CO2 emissions.

Even though there is still much more to be done, the industry’s determination to tackle the challenge is evident – and EUROCONTROL plays a pivotal role in helping stakeholders reach their goal of controlling emissions while satisfying the demands of costumers.

Watch our video and read the Skyway article to learn more on how EUROCONTROL is leading the way to measure, monitor and mitigate the overall impact of aviation on the environment.