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article imageUK and Canada's pilots to pick their own Trans-Atlantic routes

By Karen Graham     Feb 12, 2021 in Business
Airlines are poised to reduce their emissions and reap huge fuel savings on trans-Atlantic flights in the coming weeks as air traffic controllers experiment with giving pilots free rein to chart their own paths.
A perfect storm of events and issues can sometimes lead to positive solutions. The main issue? - Airlines are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. The event? - The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly reduced the number of trans-Atlantic flights between North America and the United Kingdom.
NAV Canada, which manages Canada's airspace, and NATS, which does the same for the United Kingdom, are collaborating in a test that should reduce airlines' emissions and possibly result in more fuel-efficient flights, according to CNN Business.
Pre-pandemic air traffic across the Atlantic between North America and Europe was usually congested, with about 1,700 flights daily. However, over the past year, the skies on this route look more like a "high-altitude ghost highway," thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
London Heathrow is Europe's busiest airport in terms of passenger numbers
London Heathrow is Europe's busiest airport in terms of passenger numbers
-, AFP
Picking new trans-Atlantic routes
Basically, according to The Hill, the U.K. and Canadian airspace regulators are giving airline pilots leeway to try new trans-Atlantic routes.
Because of the reduction in flights, the two regulators will temporarily ignore the prescribed travel routes pilots are mandated to take, allowing the airlines' to choose their paths "based entirely on optimum route, speed, and trajectory."
“The dramatic fall in traffic we've seen across the Atlantic has given us a window of opportunity to do things differently, and to introduce things more quickly than otherwise might have been possible," NATS officials told reporters.
The test may help deliver cost savings to airlines while reducing harmful emissions. "Our hope is that analysis of these flights, together with other tabletop exercises, will give us the evidence base we need to decide on the value of more permanent changes," said NATS.
Toronto Pearson International Airport  is the largest and busiest airport in Canada  the second-busi...
Toronto Pearson International Airport is the largest and busiest airport in Canada, the second-busiest international air passenger gateway in the Americas, and the 30th-busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic.
Robert Linsdell (CC BY 2.0)
This test is the result of a study by researchers at the University of Reading in England. The researchers studied 35,000 transatlantic flights last winter and found that allowing planes to take better advantage of wind patterns could reduce fuel use by up to 16 percent when flying East.
The study found that the use of air-distance-optimized routing results in a 1.7 percent annual reduction in CO2 for westbound flights and a 2.5 percent reduction for passengers flying east. That amounts to a total savings of 6.7 million kg of CO2 over a 91-day period.
Paul Williams, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Reading, says that "upgrading to more efficient aircraft or switching to biofuels or batteries could lower emissions significantly, but will be costly and may take decades to achieve."
"Simple tweaks to flight paths are far cheaper and can offer benefits immediately. This is important because lower emissions from aviation are urgently needed to reduce the future impacts of climate change," he added.
More about air space regulators, Nav canada, Nats, transatlantic routes, pick their own flight paths
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