Trimming flights could slash emissions says air industry group

Carbon dioxide emissions from planes using European airspace could be cut by more than half a million tonnes a year simply through improvements in air traffic control, UK aviation experts have claimed.

According to the Society of British Aerospace Companies, the distance that aircraft travel could be reduced by more than 200 million km by the year 2013 just by changing air traffic management procedures. The latest in a series of SBAC briefing papers examining the aviation industry’s impact on the environment reports that aircraft using European airspace travel on average 50 km further than necessary on every flight. This is due to many factors including divisions of the airspace, congestion around airports and operators not selecting the most efficient routes.

Tackling this over the next five years could potentially cut journeys by 220 million kilometres by 2013, reducing carbon dioxide emissions of 570,000 tonnes annually. The target then would be to reduce emissions by ten per cent per flight by 2020 through the euro 2.1bn Single European Sky ATM Research programme and the UK’s Air Navigation Service Provider.

Industry can only succeed in hitting its targets if it receives backing from government, warned Dr Mark Watson, an SBAC advisor on corporate environmental affairs.

"Aircraft manufacturers are developing exciting new technologies to reduce aviation's impact on the environment.  However, to make full use of these advances we need rationalisation of airspace and air traffic management.  The industry cannot achieve this alone,” said Watson. “To achieve such efficiency gains requires political will and urgent action from governments across Europe."

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