The “Europe for Aviation” team, consisting of nine European aviation organisations working to promote the modernisation, sustainability and resilience of a safe European aviation, came together at the World ATM Congress from 21 to 23 June in Madrid, Spain. These organisations are showing how, through collaboration, they can go further in tackling the most pressing challenges facing the industry.
The partners in the “Europe for Aviation” team are the European Commission, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the European Defence Agency (EDA), EUROCONTROL, EUROCAE, the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA), the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Execution Agency (CINEA), the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) and the SESAR Deployment Manager (SESAR DM). SESAR stands for Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research.
In a media seminar attended by Aviation24.be, Europe for Aviation has presented EU measures needed to decarbonise aviation and meet the targets under the EU Green Deal and the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy through high-level briefings by representatives of the European Commission and partner organisations. It also touched upon topical issues in EU aviation, such as the impact of the war in Ukraine and airport capacity issues.
The seminar did also showcase innovative EU-funded solutions for more sustainable and smart aviation during the SESAR press walking tour (topics covered e.g. safe and secure management of drones, fuel-efficiency of aircraft and augmented reality in Air Traffic Management).
A site visit to the Madrid Area Control Centre (operated by the Spanish Air Navigation Services Provider ENAIRE) and their operations room was also included in the programme.
- As aviation recovers from the COVID-19 crisis, it must also find ways to “build back better”. There is today broad consensus that addressing aviation’s environmental footprint is a prerequisite for it to continue growing and fulfilling our current and future mobility needs.
- Transforming Europe into the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 is a huge challenge. To get there, the European Commission presented the European Green Deal, which calls for a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2050, while also working towards a zero-pollution ambition. Road, rail, aviation, and waterborne transport will all have to contribute to the reduction.
- The Commission’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy outlines the actions needed to achieve this transition: the development of new aviation technologies, making flying more efficient through the Single European Sky, gradually replacing fossil jet fuel with sustainable alternatives, reducing carbon emissions through the EU Emissions Trading System, and driving forward global action with the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), among others.
Filip Cornelis, Director for Aviation at DG MOVE European Commission, highlighted the fact that after three years of a deep crisis, aviation is recovering to 90% of the 2019 level, mainly due to leisure travel. Business travel is also recovering, but at a slower pace and it is too early to assess which level it will eventually reach. On the other hand, freight transport has never been in trouble. However, the recovery has created capacity problems both at airports and airlines due to the fact that staff left during the crisis and were not fully replaced. There were no more bankruptcies than usual during the crisis thanks to state aid approved by the Commission.
To make aviation more sustainable, the Commission is proposing a “blended mandate” imposing a certain percentage of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and also by funding the development of electric and hydrogen engines. The CO2 emissions can also be reduced by renewing the fleet (new aircraft are cleaner), which is done to the level of 9% per year. Flight efficiency during taxiing and in the air by Air Traffic Management (ATM) can reduce emissions by a further 10%.
Russian counter-sanctions against European airlines have compounded the problem by imposing longer routes, especially to/from Asian destinations. For safety reasons, Europe will ban Russian aircraft that have not been maintained according to European standards.
Christine Berg, Head of Unit Single European Sky at DG MOVE European Commission, described more in detail the situation of the Single European Sky (SES). European skies are fragmented because of monopolistic national situations that need to be abolished in order to adopt a more business approach. Therefore, the Commission has created a new function of Network Manager, who will coordinate Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSP), airports and other stakeholders to optimise the network. The Commission is also funding innovation research to develop new technologies on the ground in aeroplanes.
Negotiations with Member States on SES are an uphill battle, but the Commission hopes to conclude in one or two years.
Henrik Hololei, European Commission Director-General for Mobility and Transport, reminded us that aviation is responsible only for 2.5% of the greenhouse gas emissions. However, the industry takes the challenge very seriously. Among the proposals mentioned above, the “blended mandate” proposal applies In addition to a package of measures in the air, the Commission also proposes a package on the ground.to airlines but to fuel producers. It will certainly have an influence on prices.
Eamonn Brennan, Director General of EUROCONTROL, discussed a number of issues. The airfares increased by 33% in one year. Nevertheless, there was airport chaos in several countries, leading to flight cancellations and caps on the number of flights in the coming months. But there were also ATC delays en route, which tend to increase once they start; network measures may help reduce those delays.
The war in Ukraine has led to a closure of Russian airspace for European airlines and a change in the long-haul routing between Europe and Asia, with as consequence the need for extra fuel and extra costs.
The traffic scenarios for 2022 show a recovery of 83 to 96% by year-end compared to 2019. The largest markets are already at 80-90% now. As for airlines, in the week of 13-19 June, Ryanair has exceeded the 2019 figures by 15% and Wizz Air by 21%. The January-May traffic of 2022 is 21% lower than in 2019, but the CO2 emissions decreased even more, by 25%.
Several presentations made at the ATM Congress have made it clear that, among the basket of measures to make aviation greener and more sustainable and reduce the emissions to zero by 2050, the SAF is the one that will have the largest influence. Disruptive technology (e.g. electric and hydrogen engines) will also have a major influence.
Sustainable Aviation Fuels – ReFuelEU Aviation
- One of the most important decarbonisation measures is the deployment of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). Over their entire lifecycle, SAF can achieve emission savings as high as 75% to 100% compared to conventional fossil kerosene.
- However, in 2020, the production and use of SAF in the EU aviation market amounted to less than 0.05% of total jet fuel use. The reason for this is that industry is almost exclusively reliant on fossil energy that is currently significantly less costly than SAF. EU transport, and in particular air transport has been reliant on the use of high-emitting fossil-based fuels, notably imported in the EU from third countries. In 2018, EU transport relied on oil products for about 93% of its energy needs. Europe imports around 87% of its crude oil and oil products from abroad. This dependency could be reduced by increased SAF supply in the EU.
- In July 2021, the Commission adopted the ReFuelEU Aviation regulatory proposal as part of the Fit-for-55 Package. The proposal sets obligations on fuel suppliers to distribute SAF in increasing minimum shares from 2025 to 2050 across Union airports (mainly advanced biofuels and e-fuels), and sets obligations on airlines to uplift the fuel at Union airports, in amounts commensurate with the length of their flights. This will ensure that all airlines can decarbonise their operations with the use of SAF and will mitigate the risk of unsustainable practices such as fuel tankering.
- The proposal sets the following mandatory SAF ramp-up objectives:
|Total shares in the fuel mix (in %)||2025||2030||2035||2040||2045||2050|
|SAF ramp up out of which:||2||5||20||32||38||63|
|Specific sub-mandate on e-fuels||–||0.7||5||8||11||28|
- The Commission has recently launched an industrial alliance, the Renewable and Low-Carbon Fuels Value Chain Industrial Alliance. It is a new initiative that focuses on boosting the production and supply of renewable and low-carbon fuels. It is a key flanking measure to the RefuelEU Aviation initiatives. The aim is to ensure that air transport has sufficient access to renewable and low carbon fuels.
Eurocontrol insisted that ATM improvements can also have a larger impact on the interim EU goal “Fit for 55” aiming at reducing the CO2 emissions by 55% in 2030.
Reforming the Single European Sky
- The Single European Sky initiative, launched in 2004, tackles the problems related to the fragmentation of European airspace and aims at improving the performance of air traffic management (ATM).
- To modernise the overall management of European airspace, we urgently need to reform the Single European Sky framework to establish more sustainable and efficient flight paths, helping to curb emissions. By improving the performance of air navigation services and speeding up digitalisation, European airspace will be managed more efficiently, ensuring sustainability, scalability and resilience in the management of air traffic.
- The SESAR project, a technological pillar of the Single European Sky policy, has a renewed framework with the ‘Digital European Sky’ vision as the objective for a more efficient, digitalised, greener and safer ATM in Europe.
SESAR WALKING TOURS
SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) is a collaborative project to completely overhaul European airspace and its air traffic management (ATM). In the framework of the World ATM Congress, a tour was organised of some of the companies involved in special projects funded by the European Union.
- Digital towers and augmented reality (ENAV)
Binoculars are still used in control towers for everyday operations. Now SESAR researchers like Sara Bagassi of the University of Bologna are investigating augmented reality (AR) goggles that will help controllers better manage airport traffic! The tests are part of research into virtual reality and AR applications in digital tower environments. The goggles enable controllers to see aeroplanes under zero visibility conditions.
- Integrating drones into the airspace (INECO)
Research is underway in SESAR to ensure that the increase of drone traffic in Europe’s skies can be managed safely and securely, within the framework of U-space. The research addresses critical communications, surveillance and tracking, and information management to aircraft systems, ground-based technologies, cyber-resilience and geo-fencing. Victor Gordo of INECO-ENAIRE explains that this research is paving the way for the establishment of an enabling operating framework for drone applications, such as parcel deliveries, medical emergencies and police interventions, to search and rescue, area surveys and environment inspections.
- Greener taxiing (ENAC)
ICAO data shows that a total of 140 million aircraft ground movements took in 2019, representing about 5% of aircraft fuel consumption, or 5 million jet-fuel litres and 18,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions each day. Taxi bots, E-Taxi systems, single-engine taxiing are some of the technologies under investigation by partners in the SESAR JU AEON project to reduce significantly CO2 emissions caused by aircraft taxiing at airports, said Mathieu Cousy of ENAC.
- Improve civil-military coordination (Enaire)
Paula Pérez García of Enaire and her military colleague explained that the local and sub-regional airspace management support system (LARA) is a common civil-military airspace management coordination system. Interoperable with the Network Manager system, LARA provides live situational awareness to civil and military partners, enabling better collaborative decision-making and a more flexible use of airspace (AFUA).
- Multi-airport remote tower (Indra)
Remote Tower Centres are a growing trend in the ATM industry, due to its cost-efficient installation and convenience for the controllers, who do not need to relocate to remote areas. The multi-airport system, integrated with Remote Tower Optical System (IRTOS), aims at validating the capabilities of a multi-airport remote tower module and analysing its feasibility of controlling multiple low-traffic airports remotely. Miguel Serrano Fuentes of Indra said that the system setup is based on an interface for multi-airport that combines all the radar functionality and EFS for up to three (3) parallel airports. IRTOS system enhanced the management by providing an augmented reality environment that allowed better control of the airport’s visuals, such as digital binoculars, surveillance labels, visual detection and automatic tracking with the PTZ camera.
VISIT TO THE MADRID AREA CONTROL CENTRE
This will be reported in a separate article.
Aviation24.be wishes to thank the European Commission, and in particular DG MOVE (Mobility & Transport), for the opportunity to attend this seminar.
André Orban at Madrid, 20-22 June 2022
All text and pictures © André Orban