Initiative aims to clear the ‘Aire’

 - July 25, 2007, 10:36 AM

While the debate continues to swirl on both sides of the Atlantic over the European Union’s scheduled imposition of a carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions trading program involving air travel, a new initiative to address the problem was launched in June at the Paris Air Show.

Speaking before a packed media audience, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and European Commission Vice President for Transportation Jacques Barrot announced the birth of Aire (the Atlantic Interoperability Initiative to Reduce Emissions), a government-backed, industry-wide voluntary program that hopes to use best practices to reduce greenhouse gas and noise emissions.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change attributes about
3 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to aviation, leading industry leaders and government officials to search for methods to curb the environmental impact as forecasts call for robust growth in air traffic over the next several decades.

Carefully sidestepped in the politically charged atmosphere of the launch announcement was any mention of the European carbon emissions trading scheme, which is currently scheduled to go into effect in 2011. The plan has received vociferous opposition from U.S. airlines and the Bush administration. “The idea of an imposed system out of the European Union is something [about which] the vast majority of countries are not willing at this point to say ‘We’ll only play by one set of rules,’” Blakey told AIN.

Industry Best Practices
The architects of Aire say the program will attempt to publicize and standardize efforts industry members currently use for reducing CO2 emissions. As Blakey said, a “gate-to-gate” approach, a trajectory-based arrival clearance, which relies heavily on upgraded future ATC procedures such as NextGen and Europe’s Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research Program (Sesar), is a cornerstone of the initiative. “The real concept is to make the maximum use of the aircraft potential and air traffic control to have a smooth trajectory right from the point that the aircraft leaves the gate, without the kind of stopping and starting and fuel burn that we so often see in backups on the runway,” said Blakey.

“As the aircraft takes off and goes across the Atlantic Ocean, we know that there is an optimum route of flight, optimal fuel burn for that particular aircraft’s abilities, and then on landing to do a continuous descent approach [CDA], where the engines are almost at idle so that you are not burning a lot of fuel,” she added.

According to SAS senior vice president Hans Ollongren, using such approaches is in the best interests of not only the environment but also the airlines. “Reducing fuel burn will cut our costs but it will also benefit the environment, and if we, together with air navigation service providers, can establish this, a lot will be gained,” he said.
Successful adoption of such measures could shorten the duration of flights, but Aire’s planners are also looking to minimize aircraft ground run time as well. Studies under way are examining ways to trim the time aircraft wait in queues for takeoff as well. Such remedies could see aircraft towed with engines shut down to holding areas near the runway hold-short line.