North Atlantic Trials Demonstrate Fuel, Emissions Reductions

 - September 2, 2011, 11:15 AM
The Engage Corridor Project’s first trial flight of an Air Canada A330 on August 9 demonstrated better-than-expected fuel and emissions reductions. (Photo: Air Canada)

Flight trials to demonstrate new procedures intended to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of international flights crossing the North Atlantic have begun.

The so-called Engage Corridor Project–part of the Atlantic Interoperability Initiative to Reduce Emissions international program–involves Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, Delta and United in conjunction with air navigation service providers Nav Canada and UK NATS. Some 350,000 flights traverse the North Atlantic every year, making it the world’s busiest airspace.

The first test flight on August 9 involved an Air Canada A330 flying from Frankfurt to Toronto. Resulting fuel and emissions reductions proved better than expected, according to Nav Canada.

“The results of the first trial are very encouraging and have exceeded our initial estimates,” said Rudy Kellar, Air Canada vice president of operations. “Analysis of the flight shows a savings of over 800 liters [211 gallons] of fuel and a reduction in GHG emissions by more than 2,100 kilograms [4,630 pounds]. At today’s fuel prices, this translates to a cost savings of nearly $700 for this one flight.”

The Engage flight trials measure fuel and emissions savings gained through the use of progressive or continuous altitude change (versus step changes) and a corresponding change in aircraft speed within an approved airspace block. Aircraft equipped for automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) send automatic position reports fed to air traffic controller displays in Gander, Newfoundland, through Nav Canada’s upgraded Gander Automated Air Traffic System Plus (Gaats+). The Gaats+ system integrates conflict detection and other automation tools, giving controllers information on current and planned traffic and available conflict-free route profiles. The visibility allows controllers to reduce aircraft separations, thereby increasing airspace capacity and allowing variable altitudes and speeds.

“Gaats+ will allow better flow planning and a clearer picture of traffic at any moment, despite the absence of radar in this airspace,” said John Crichton, Nav Canada president and CEO. “This, in turn, will allow us to implement procedures that increase capacity while maintaining safety in collaboration with our oceanic partner, NATS, in Prestwick, Scotland.”

Engage flight trials will continue through the fall. Its partners will present a report detailing the results at an October meeting in Montreal.