Posted on July 05, 2014

More efficient air traffic control procedures, innovative new technologies and the better use of airspace saved a record breaking 190,000 tonnes of aircraft CO2 last year, according to NATS.

The savings equate to cutting £38m from airline fuel bills. The figures emerged as the Global air traffic management company published its corporate responsibility report, charting its progress during 2013 in reducing the environmental impact of aviation and cutting airline fuel costs. In 2008, NATS became the first air traffic management provider in the world to set itself targets on environmental performance. Since then it has worked with the rest of the industry to reduce fuel burn and CO2 emissions.

Providing continuous climbs and descents and direct routes all help aircraft save fuel and reduce emissions. Last year NATS introduced 75 changes to airspace and procedures to allow for more efficient journeys, while new departure routes were introduced to allow aircraft to climb higher more smoothly. The NATS led TOPFLIGHT project also pioneered optimised transatlantic operations, saving up to half a tonne of fuel every flight.

Ian Jopson, NATS Head of Environmental and Community Affairs, said: “This is our best year yet in terms of CO2 and fuel savings. It means that since 2006 we’ve cumulatively saved £270m worth of fuel for our airline customers, but we’ve still got more work to do. “Our overall goal is a globally sustainable aviation industry, in a business and an environmental sense. We have a near term target to cut 4% off ATM related CO2 per-flight by the end of this year. We’re just over half way there and are now going all out to achieve the rest.”

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NATS made progress in minimising its own environmental footprint. Just 4% of the company’s waste now goes to landfill, while its water use has halved since 2006, saving 40 million litres a year – the equivalent of 15 Olympic sizes swimming pools. Beyond its immediate 4% target, NATS’ longer term aim is to cut 10% of CO2 emissions per-flight by 2020. Martin Rolfe, NATS Managing Director Operations, added: “This is a real success story, not just for NATS but for the wider industry. It demonstrates the added value we’re able to offer our customers and that environmental savings can go hand in hand with exceptional safety and delay performance.”

In the Middle East, NATS is currently working on projects in Qatar, Kuwait and Oman, and has previously worked with Bahrain and at Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai to support the safety, efficiency and environmental performance of its airspace. NATS successfully completed work on the Qatar Airspace Design and Implementation (QADI) project for Hamad International Airport, which officially started operations last  month.

In the UK, NATS guides around two million aircraft through some of the busiest and most complex airspace anywhere in the world. Increasingly, its expertise is in demand from other countries, with NATS also working in Asia, the United States and Far East.