SESAR project award for “green” flight descents across Europe

The SESAR Optimised Descent Profiles (ODP) project was the winner in the Environment Category of IHS Jane’s ATC Awards, which were announced during the World ATM Congress in Madrid on 7 March. ODP was a joint project of European air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and airlines conducted under the leadership of the German ANSP DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung. Prof. Klaus-Dieter Scheurle, CEO of DFS, received the award on behalf of the consortium.

The aim of the project was to develop more efficient descent profiles and reduce the environmental impact in busy and complex airspaces and across borders without compromising safety and capacity aspects.

The optimum arrival is a continuous descent. In highly-frequented airspaces, which are shaped by national borders and handover points, this optimum is not always possible. Existing arrival flows can, however, often be improved. Instead of fixed waypoints, precise level windows can be defined and programmed in the flight management system of the aircraft. Another way of improving vertical flight efficiency is to remain at cruising altitude for a longer period of time before descending, since fuel consumption is lower at higher levels. The project also used flexible seasonal or runway dependent handover procedures.

Klaus-Dieter Scheurle, CEO of DFS, said: “Each and every descent profile optimisation counts and contributes to a more efficient and sustainable air transport in Europe. This award confirms the benefits achieved by the good collaboration between air navigation service providers and airlines for the sake of stakeholders, passengers and society as a whole.”

A total of 11,467 demonstration flights to nine airports in Europe were conducted. On an annual basis, these optimised flows have the potential to generate fuel savings of 3,400 tonnes, which equals more than 10,700 tonnes of CO2 emissions according to calculations by EUROCONTROL. Half of the 33 analysed flows have already been permanently implemented; seven are published in the Aeronautical Information Publication. Real savings achieved with the project’s demonstration flights amounting to 86 tonnes of fuel and a reduction of 270 tonnes of CO2 emissions.


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