Small changes that are almost perfectly formed13 December 2022
Earlier this month we successfully deployed a change to the high level airspace over the North Sea. Controlled from our Prestwick Centre and delivered in partnership with the Maastricht Upper Airspace Centre, it involves the creation of new crossing points and routes as well as a new dynamic sectorisation concept in Upper Airspace. It improves the interface with our European neighbours while saving thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions.
No fanfare. No drama. But a really important improvement and the latest in a series of changes which, though small scale by comparison with most airspace changes, have nonetheless delivered some really effective operational improvements, some of them within the UK airspace system, others introducing significant cross-border efficiencies with our European neighbours.
Over the past two years, our Operational Service Enhancement Programme (OSEP) has deployed six tranches of change to airspace across the country, enabling some 30,000 tonnes of CO2 savings annually throughout the European and UK network, equivalent to the emissions from the energy usage of over 8,000 homes.
The OSEP deployments began in February 2021. OD1 delivered four new direct routes to offer more efficient trajectories over SE England, including some procedural changes to provide a better planned profile for the London-Jersey interface. In September last year OD2 brought in nine new direct routes to improve traffic flows within the London FIR, including provision for some Gatwick traffic to flight plan a more efficient trajectory during the quieter winter period.
Earlier this year, in February 2022 OD3 delivered reduced lateral separation requirements at the interface between London and Scottish sectors near Birmingham to reduce controller workload and enable more efficient tactical trajectories and improved vertical profiles. Just a few months later, in May, OD4 introduced several relaxations to internal agreements to allow operators to plan more efficient profiles within Scottish and London FIRs, improved vertical profiles for traffic outbound from Manchester and London TMAs and four new direct routes to offer shorter flight plannable trajectories to traffic flows around the London TMA.
OD5, deployed in September, has helped prepare the airspace over western England and Wales for the next major airspace change that NATS is undertaking – the introduction of systemised airspace in March next year. This will be the first deployment of systemised airspace in the UK and will be introduced simultaneously with high level Free Route Airspace (FRA) over the same region.
And so to OD6, the change to Humber Sector, currently the second most regulated high level sector at Prestwick. With a new flexible boundary allowing us to split the sector dynamically, we expect to reduce delay and emissions, and improve routings through both Scottish and London Upper Information Regions (UIR). The change adds extra route connections between Prestwick, Copenhagen, Maastricht and London Area Control and links Scottish and Maastricht FRA. There are new conflict areas, different traffic flows and new procedures with Copenhagen and Maastricht. OD6 is expected to deliver substantial fuel savings, enabling up to 18,000T of annual CO2 reduction throughout the European network.
We’re delighted with what OSEP has achieved in such a small timeframe, and we’re now looking for the next set of hotspots to turn our attention to. Watch this space.
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