The reduction equates to more than £30m in enabled annual fuel savings for airlines in the last year and an overall cut of 6.4% in CO2 per flight since 2008, something that equates to 1.5m tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.
The improvements are the result of finding better, more fuel and carbon efficient ways of using UK airspace, including the use of more direct routes and improved vertical profiles, the use of continuous instead of stepped climbs and descents, and the introduction of new air traffic management technologies.
More than 30 procedural changes were introduced over the past year in an effort to find better and more efficient routes for airlines in the upper airspace, while new and improved technology has also played a major role. Last year, upgrades to the GAATS+ system that controllers at NATS’ Prestwick Control centre use to manage transatlantic traffic accounted for 147,160 tonnes of CO2 savings by allowing aircraft to fly more efficient routes across the ocean.
Getting more environmental data into the hands of operational employees has also been a priority, and last year NATS began sharing data with individual teams of controllers, using the principles of ‘nudge theory’ to allow them to compare performance and share ideas for improvements.
Ian Jopson, NATS Head of Environment and Community Affairs, said: “It’s now been a decade since our environmental programme was launched and driven by the passion and enthusiasm of our employees we have achieved some ambitious improvements in how our airspace is managed. These are delivering big benefits both to our airline customers and the wider environment.
“As our airspace gets busier we will continue to work with our airport partners and local communities to help address issues around noise, and to deliver the major airspace modernisation programme the UK needs to meet our future capacity and sustainability aspirations.”
Today’s results form part of the wider NATS’ Collectively responsible report that catalogues the air traffic services’, community, charity efforts and good business practices over the last year, as well as its work on airspace efficiency.
Last year NATS employees gave over £180,000 in charitable donations and introduce a number of measures to reduce the use of single use plastics across the entire company.
Further details can be found in the report.