Trials to Achieve ‘Perfect’ Transatlantic Flights

NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air traffic services and solutions, has signed a contract to lead a pioneering project trialling environmentally ‘perfect’ transatlantic flights. The project, entitled TOPFLIGHT, will look to put into operational practice something that has only previously been possible in single, one-off flights. Phase one will see 60 transatlantic flights where many factors within the journey – from pushback from the stand and taxiing to an optimised flight profile and continuous descent approach – has been optimised to achieve minimal emissions and delay.

It is expected that each optimised trip will save approximately 500kg in fuel – the equivalent to 1.6 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The British Airways flights will take place between Heathrow and a number of North American airports over the course of four months. The second phase of the project will then look to introduce multiple ‘perfect’ flights crossing the Atlantic simultaneously. The aim is to prove that the concept is scalable and can be implemented for many flights at the same time without penalising those in the surrounding airspace.

TOPFLIGHT is a SESAR project, the technical and operational component of the European Community’s Single European Sky initiative which aims to modernise and harmonise air traffic management systems across Europe.

By 2030, European air traffic is likely to have doubled. SESAR’s aim is to maintain safety levels whilst minimising delay, reducing costs and lowering carbon emissions. TOPFLIGHT will develop, demonstrate and transition to operation, an optimised flight concept based on several elements of the SESAR vision.

NATS has been chosen to lead the delivery of the TOPFLIGHT trial, working alongside members of the aviation industry in the UK, Canada and the United States, including British Airways and NAVCANADA, the Canadian air navigation service provider. Airbus ProSky, Boeing and Barco Orthogon will also contribute with their experience in advanced air traffic management solutions.

In cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) NextGen Implementation Plan, SESAR will look to expand the programme to include flights to Boston Logan International Airportand John F.Kennedy InternationalAirport, creating a sustainable gate to gate perfect flight concept across the North Atlantic.

The TOPFLIGHT project will build upon NATS’ successful participation in the Perfect Flight project in 2010, where a single British Airways Heathrow to Edinburgh flight was environmentally optimised, saving a quarter of a tonne of fuel and nearly one tonne of CO2.

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