NATS begins optimised transatlantic flight trials

16 June 2013 (Last Updated June 16th, 2013 18:30)

UK air traffic services provider NATS has started trialling environmentally optimised transatlantic flights under its TOPFLIGHT project.

UK air traffic services provider NATS has started trialling environmentally optimised transatlantic flights under its TOPFLIGHT project.

Part of the SESAR programme, TOPFLIGHT will allow NATS and its project partners to reassess and gather feedback on the feasibility, benefits and scalability of the SESAR concept, with minimum fuel consumption and reduced CO2 emissions.

The SESAR joint undertaking co-funded project involves trialling up to 60 British Airways (BA) flights, during summer 2013, to assess factors including push-back time, climb and descent profile and routing in a bid to mimimise emissions and boost efficiency.

Initial flight trials kicked off during late May 2013 between Heathrow and Canada, follwoing six weeks of cockpit simulation work.

NATS project manager Joe Baker said one-off trials, such as the NATS Perfect Flight project in 2010, have already proven the level of benefits that can be achieved in isolation, but wider trials would allow these ideas to be implemented for multiple flights in a real-life operational environment.

"TOPFLIGHT will allow NATS and its project partners to reassess and gather feedback on the feasibility, benefits and scalability of the SESAR concept, with minimum fuel consumption and reduced CO2 emissions."

"TOPFLIGHT will therefore develop and assess procedures that assist NATS controllers in providing a service that further minimises the environmental impact of aviation," Baker said.

The project also involves testing future SESAR concept in the current operational environment, with some of them already operational for NATS controllers, including deployment of continuous climb departures for least fuel burns, while others required new procedures involving offering aircraft an initial oceanic profile prior to departing Heathrow.

NATS estimates that every optimised flight would save around 500kg in fuel, equivalent to 1.6t of CO2 emissions.

The TOPFLIGHT consortium also includes Canadian air traffic service NAVCANADA, Airbus ProSky, Boeing and Barco Orthogon, with additional support from the Irish Aviation Authority.

NATS is expecting initial TOPFLIGHT results in the autumn 2013, with further trials scheduled for the winter involving the use of a cross border Arrival Manager, or XMAN to reduce holding at London Heathrow.