The aviation community has substantially reduced its CO2 emissions per flight over the past few years. But air traffic volumes continue to grow and, as a result, so do their CO2 emissions in absolute terms. So further climate protection measures are needed to minimise the impact of this continued traffic growth.
The amount of fuel that an aircraft consumes on a particular flight will depend to a large extent on the route the flight follows from takeoff to landing. Air traffic control can influence this. Skyguide has identified three action areas here: optimised routes, new flight procedures and efficient traffic management. And in each of these areas, the company has defined a number of measures that it is now taking, in collaboration with Swiss and international partners.
The efficiency of Europe’s air navigation services providers is monitored by the Single European Sky initiative to unify the continent’s airspace. And it does so by means of its horizontal flight efficiency (HFE) metric, which measures the difference between the shortest possible flight route between two points and the route actually flown. For 2019 the FABEC functional airspace block, to which skyguide belongs, achieved an HFE of 3.32% – a level which was broadly unchanged from the previous year, but which failed to meet the 2019 target value of 2.96%. Switzerland’s individual contribution to FABEC’s overall HFE amounted to around 4.60%. This is largely attributable to the current measurement method, which combines Switzerland’s performance with a network performance.
Shorter flight routes mean lower fuel consumption. And this is why skyguide is steadily developing an extensive network of direct routes for flights through Switzerland’s airspace. These more direct routes shorten flying times, ease airspace pressure and reduce aircraft weights, since less fuel needs to be carried. Skyguide has made over 60 optimised route segments available to airlines in the last five years.
Climate change knows no national borders, which is why it can only be tackled with a global approach. Skyguide is involved in a number of international programmes that are designed to improve the environmental credentials of the entire aviation system.
The company is an active participant in the development and adoption of various SESAR initiatives. As the research arm of the Single European Sky project, SESAR is seeking to bring greater harmonisation to the continent’s various air traffic management services. SESAR is also pursuing the ambitious goal of reducing air traffic emissions by 10% through the adoption of new procedures and technologies.
Skyguide is also a member of the FABEC functional airspace block, which consists of the airspace of Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Together with its FABEC partners, skyguide defines and introduces international direct routes through the airspace concerned. This particular drive should be a cornerstone of Europe’s future air traffic management, enabling pilots to freely select their upper airspace routes between predetermined airspace entry and exit points and thereby achieve substantial savings in their fuel consumption.