UK air traffic services provider NATS will lead a project known as TOPFLIGHT to trial environmentally perfect transatlantic flights, in a bid to enhance the industry’s environmental performance, efficiency and fuel savings.
TOPFLIGHT is a SESAR project, which is the technical and operational element of the European Community’s Single European Sky initiative aimed at modernising and harmonising air traffic management systems all through the continent.
NATS Operations managing director Martin Rolfe said that the industry has an opportunity to improve its environmental performance and the efficiency and fuel savings make great business sense too.
"It should be a win-win situation for everyone involved," Rolfe said. "It is hoped the project will have a sustainable and lasting impact.
The TOPFLIGHT trial will develop, demonstrate and transition to operation, an enhanced flight concept depending on various factors under SESAR vision, NATS revealed.
During the project’s initial four-month phase, British Airways will make 60 transatlantic flights between Heathrow airport and various North American airports to assess factors, such as pushback from the stand and taxiing to an enhanced flight profile and continuous descent approach, in a bid to achieve least emissions and delay.
NATS predicts that each optimised flight will save around 500kg in fuel, which is equal to 1.6t of CO2 emissions.
The second phase of the project involves the introduction of simultaneous multiple ‘perfect’ flights crossing the Atlantic.
According to NATS, European air traffic is expected to double by 2030 and SESAR has targeted maintaining safety levels, while reducing delay, reducing costs and deliver minimal carbon emissions.
The trial also involved other members of the aviation industry of UK, Canada and the US, including British Airways and the Canadian air navigation service provider NAVCANADA, while Airbus ProSky, Boeing and Barco Orthogon will share their experience.
SESAR is also planning to further expand the programme to include flights to Boston Logan International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in a bid to create perfect flight concept across the North Atlantic region.
Image: TOPFLIGHT trial involves 60 transatlantic flights between Heathrow Airport and various North American Airports. Photo: courtesy of Warren Rohner.