Enabling environmentally friendly flights

Greenhouse gases emitted by aircraft and ground vehicles account for the majority of aviation emissions. Airspace management offers a valuable opportunity in the short to medium term to accelerate emissions reductions through an array of measures including the provision of CNS/ATM equipment, the introduction of continuous climb and descent operations, and data centre management. 

Complex projects such as Free Route Airspace and Extended Arrival Management are on their way and have already delivered substantial gains. But this is only one side of the coin. Aviation and climatology are complex. Hence FABEC puts a lot of effort into knowledge gathering by launching studies and assembling experts from different domains to build a common understanding.

There are some early findings. First, opportunities arising from air traffic control measures are very minor. The flight route is selected by the airspace user – usually based on cost – and recommended alternatives such as more environmentally-friendly routes are not binding on the pilot.

Second, improved infrastructure reduces emissions, but also offers capacity for additional flights. Just like cars, an additional lane will eventually bring more traffic.

Third, knowledge about the impact of aviation on climate change is limited. It is a complex issue. For instance, we know that carbon dioxide plays an important role, but non-carbon emissions add a non-linear impact. The volume and impact of emissions is heavily influenced by local factors and ongoing research aims to find ways to minimise the climate impact. 

Despite this complexity, FABEC States and air navigation service providers are committed to their social responsibility to reduce the environmental footprint of aviation.