[Avionics Today 8-1-14] The United Kingdom (U.K.) is on track to achieve a "historic" level of airspace environmental efficiency, according to new figures released by Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) NATS. The results come from NATS’ new Three Dimensional Inefficiency (3Di) metric used to measure the environmental performance of aircraft flying through regulated U.K. airspace during the first six months of 2014.
3Di works by comparing the vertical and horizontal trajectories of the aircraft as it is tracked through the airspace to the optimal flight profile that the airline would prefer to fly. This comparison is done with a scale where zero represents total environmental efficiency. Between January and June 2014, NATS achieved an average score of 23.3.
"We’ve seen a gradual reduction in 3Di scores so far this year demonstrating that U.K. airspace efficiency is improving, but we still have more to do to achieve the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA)’s target value by the end of the year,” said Ian Jopson, head of environmental and community affairs at NATS.
The tool was first launched by NATS in 2012, after both the CAA and several airlines asked the ANSP how they could be incentivized on their environmental performance. The idea is linked to the Single European Sky concept of the user-based flight trajectory. Analysis from the CAA shows that achieving the 3Di targeted average score of 23 would generate savings of 600,000 tons of CO2 for the year, worth more than $202 million in fuel savings for airlines.
In the longer term, NATS wants to deliver additional airspace structures, procedures and Air Traffic Control (ATC) tools that will help controllers produce better 3Di scores. Such structures include giving more continuous climb departures, the cruise levels that the airlines want to cruise at, and more direct routes across the ground.
"We’re currently focusing on a number of small scale airspace changes, as well as extending the flexible use of airspace with military users and further improvements in continuous descent approaches," said Jopson.