Aircraft operators reap rewards of MUAC airspace changes designed to optimise Free Route Airspace

- Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Aircraft crossing the upper airspace over Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and north-west Germany will save on distance, fuel, and carbon dioxide emissions thanks to recent airspace changes championed by the EUROCONTROL Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC).

With MUAC making the best use of free route airspace thanks to optimised sectors and airspace changes (a project known as MAASERATI - Maastricht Sectorisation Review After the Implementation of Free Route Airspace Deployment 2), aircraft operators and computerised flight plan service providers are benefiting from additional route options, shorter routes, lower fuel consumption, lower emissions and therefore greater sustainability.

With the help of flight planners and air traffic controllers, aircraft can also choose the most efficient routes and altitudes to reduce flight delays.

Free route airspace was introduced by MUAC in 2019. This early adoption of free route airspace, followed by the recent airspace optimisation, have made it possible to avoid too many significant changes occurring at once, which could have disrupted capacity and efficiency.

Among several airspace changes, MUAC reorganised and straightened sector boundaries, reducing complexity and sharp turns for south-eastbound traffic.

Environmental benefits include an estimated reduction of track mileage by more than 4,000 NM per week on average and close to 1,500 NM per day during peak times.

Fast-time simulations show potential savings in flight efficiency in terms of distance, fuel and CO2, depending on traffic flows and the flight. The expected benefits are:

  • 3 to 6 NM distance saved per flight
  • Between 28 and 37kg of fuel saved per flight
  • Between 90 and 116kg of CO2 saved per flight

Potential savings on delays are up to 5.8% in the reference summer week of the MUAC review of its free route airspace operations.

The airspace changes brought about by MUAC include the creation of “airspace balconies” (see Nos 1 & 2 below) between FL245 and FL315, allowing better management of the vertical profiles of main traffic flows. This reduces complexity and improves situational awareness for air traffic controllers, with positive effects on capacity.

A realignment of the Delta and Ruhr sectors (in the Netherlands and Germany, see No 3 below) allows a better distribution of traffic flows between sectors, and improves climb profiles for departures from Frankfurt airport and Ramstein and Spangdahlem Air Bases within the Ruhr sector. This enhances sector output and productivity as well as capacity for the Delta sector. There is also a new free route airspace entry/exit point (RENEQ, see No 4 below) with the Scottish Area Control Centre.

The changes have been in place since AIRAC - 1 December 2022, and MUAC is continuing to support aircraft operators and computerised flight plan service providers in identifying these new opportunities, using bespoke tools and advisories.


There are no comments yet for this item

Join the discussion

You can only add a comment when you are logged in. Click here to login