Operational ATM improvements can provide an important contribution to reducing CO2 emissions with progress achieved in both airspace design and deployment of interoperable technologies. As such, their implementation should be accelerated to reduce fragmentation of ATM systems in Europe.
The European Green Deal requires a more ambitious, comprehensive and holistic approach involving all stakeholders to accelerate solutions to enable greener operations in the short term.
In 2019, excess fuel burn on an average flight by flight basis within the Network Manager area was estimated to be between 8.6% (XFB10) to 11.2% (XFB5), with excess fuel burn decreasing as the flight distance increases.
The European ATM Master Plan, managed by the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking (JU), defines a common vision and roadmap for ATM stakeholders to modernise and harmonise European ATM systems, including an aspirational goal to reduce average CO2 emission per flight by 5-10% (0.8-1.6 tonnes) by 2035 through enhanced cooperation, compared to 2017.
Single European Sky (SES) union-wide environment targets were not reached during the entire Reference Period (RP) 2 (2015-2019), with performance worsening in the second part of RP2. In 2020, whilst performance did improve, several Member States still did not achieve their environment targets despite the dramatic drop in traffic due to the pandemic.
The KPI reflecting the relationship between flight routing and environmental impact is considered inadequate and needs to be re-evaluated, taking into account environmental indicators based on actual CO2 emissions.
The proportion of flight time flown in free route airspace was 68% in 2021 with around 10 million tonnes CO2 saved through the implementation of Free Route Airspace since 2017.
As traffic returns to pre-COVID levels, efficiency improvements observed in 2020 should be maintained through ‘green’ recovery principles such as dynamic use of airspace constraints that are only applied when justified and the use of optimised flight planning by aircraft operators.
It has been estimated that, in 2018, 21% of ECAC flights performed fuel tankering, representing a net saving of €265 million per year for the airlines, but burning an unnecessary 286,000 tonnes of additional fuel (equivalent to 0.54% of ECAC jet fuel used).
Within the new SESAR 3 JU Digital European Sky programme a significant portion of the new partnership’s budget of €1.6 billion will be dedicated to a flagship programme on the Aviation Green Deal that should bring crucial environmental improvements in the system.