Close to the optimum

Over the past years, FABEC ANSPs have substantially contributed to the reduction of the environmental footprint of aviation measured in terms of what is known as horizontal flight efficiency. The key performance indicator for horizontal flight efficiency correlates the environmental impact of emissions caused by fuel burn with the use of the shortest route. Today, the distances actually flown in FABEC airspace are close to the optimum. In 2016, the average en-route distance per flight in FABEC airspace was 513 km, 9 km longer (1.7 percent) than the average direct route. Taking into account that there will always be some deviations due to military activities, weather, aircraft separation requirements and requirements from aircraft airline operators to deviate from the direct route due to wind or other parameters, this is an excellent value which allows for only marginal improvements in the future. Flying remains the most direct mode of transport.

One reason for this excellent level of performance is that in daily operations, pilots benefit from direct routings – known as ‘tactical directs’ – offered flexibly by air traffic controllers (ATCO) on the frequency during the flight. With these tactical directs, ATCOs can eliminate a source of inefficiency that occurs when individual flight plans do not use the most efficient routing. Overall in 2016, these tactical directs resulted in an average reduction of 15 kilometres in the distance flown per flight when compared with the routing originally planned. The average distance flown declined from 528 kilometres (plan) to 513 kilometres (actual) per flight. The benefit for airspace users can be expressed as the reduction of fuel burned by 278,000 tonnes. Beside this, air traffic controllers reduced the environmental footprint of aviation by 938,000 tonnes of CO2.

"In 2016, the average en-route distance per flight was 513 km, 9 km longer than the average direct route."