A total of about six million aircraft were piloted through European airspace in 1995. Today, twenty years later, the number of aircraft movements in the same area has grown to nine million annually. The sky above Europe is overlaid with an elaborate network of routes for aircraft to follow. Despite this growth, the aviation industry is only responsible for 2.42 percent of worldwide CO2 emissions. To deal with further increases in the amount of traffic, sustainable solutions need to be found. The Free Route Airspace Maastricht and Karlsruhe project spanning the airspace over Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands has been commended for saving tonnes of CO2 emissions and has been included in the Aviation Climate Solutions, a collection of hundred examples of how the aviation industry is collaborating to help reduce its impact on climate change.
This project offers a network of 466 cross-border direct route options. Using these routes, airlines can benefit from an annual reduction of route length of 1.5 million nautical miles which corresponds to a reduction of 30,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. All in all, 9,000 tonnes of fuel can be saved.
Up to 80 percent of aircraft that can fly the direct routes actually use them. With these routes, airlines can plan more efficiently, less fuel has to be taken on board, and there are fewer deviations from flight plans.
The network was established in 2014 by the German air navigation service provider DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung in partnership with EUROCONTROL’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) and Lufthansa. The project was co-funded by the SESAR Joint Undertaking.
Klaus-Dieter Scheurle, CEO at DFS: "We are constantly working to provide airlines with more direct routings and improved procedures whenever possible, to help reduce CO2 emissions and protect the environment. FRAMaK has been an important step towards the full implementation of free route airspace within the Single European Sky".
Jac Jansen, Director of MUAC added: "In the past few years, we have made great efforts to inform airlines about the substantial environmental, financial and operational benefits that the free route network can offer them. This effort has resulted for some of our major customers into a 90 percent usage of direct routes, generating efficiencies for all parties and the network".
Sascha Unterbarnscheidt, Captain and Deputy Head of Flight Operations at Lufthansa: "Successfully implementing 466 cross-border direct routing options into daily operations has been a big step towards more efficiency and environmental benefits in European airspace, especially in one of Lufthansa’s centerpieces of flight operations. As an experienced airline operator, we were happy to contribute to this important improvement of airspace structure."
Florian Guillermet, Executive Director of the SESAR Joint Undertaking: "Seeing is believing! We are delighted to see the work of this SESAR demonstration project recognised. It shows that the SESAR free route solution brings significant benefits in day to day operations. We look forward to seeing this solution deployed throughout Europe in the coming years."
Aviation Climate Solutions was released on 29 September at the Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva, Switzerland. The industry is committed to stabilising its net CO2 emissions from 2020 through a concept called carbon-neutral growth, whereby traffic would continue to grow to meet the demands of society and the economy, but the growth would be offset by a global market-based measure. The longer-term goal is to actually reduce net CO2 emissions from aviation to half of the 2005 amounts by 2050.
In 2008, the aviation sector became the first industry to set global goals to proactively manage its climate change impact. At the same time, EUROCONTROL initiated the coordinated development and implementation of Free Route Airspace.