Over the past few years, the Operational Service Enhancements Project (OSEP) has been quietly but significantly transforming airspace operations, culminating in tangible benefits for both operational efficiency and the environment.

Through a series of targeted deployments since 2021, OSEP has made incremental changes to airspace and flight routes, resulting in a marked reduction in CO2 emissions and flying time, improving efficiency for NATS’ operation and our airline customers, while advancing the commitment to industry emissions targets.

The latest deployment, OD8, represents another major milestone. Successfully implemented just last week on 22 February, this latest OSEP deployment is projected to generate substantial fuel savings, translating to almost 2,800T of annual CO2 reduction in both the UK and European networks. Additionally, OD8 is predicted to save an impressive 150,000 nautical miles of flying per year for aircraft operating within UK and European airspace – that’s equivalent to some seven circumnavigations around the globe!

The sectors affected by the OD8 changes are in the London North Sea region: Daventry, Clacton and North Sea. These sectors are looked after by our team of controllers working in Area Control, based at NATS’ Swanwick Centre. The deployment included a raised division flight level  (this marks the vertical boundary separating airspace sectors, serving as the ceiling of one sector and the base of another) in the North Sea, from approximately 33,500ft to 35,500ft. The Clacton and Daventry sectors now have new direct routes as a result of taking the southwest corner of the North Sea sector. This is called re-sectorisation and will help reduce delay, fuel burn and controller workload.

Map showing the reallocation of airspace from the North Sea sectors to the Daventry and Clacton sectors.

OD8’s successful implementation builds on the foundation already laid by previous deployments, such as OD7, which went live in November last year. With OD7 alone predicted to save 18.6T of CO2 annually, the culminative CO2 savings across the UK and European networks now amount to 33,000T – a figure equivalent to the annual emissions from the energy usage of over 9,300 homes. These numbers really underscore the transformative potential of OSEP; small changes are making a big impact.

It’s all in the teamwork

The fast pace of OSEP deployments lets us see our hard work quickly which can feel intense at times. By challenging conventional approaches to airspace change and fostering a collaborative approach across our teams, we are working to optimise our operation and deliver meaningful improvements with each deployment.

Working on OSEP is both rewarding and enjoyable. Project colleagues regularly meet to ensure we sustain momentum and to highlight any challenges and opportunities we’ve spotted. Despite the demanding nature of the work, the camaraderie of working on projects like OSEP makes it a wholly worthwhile and fulfilling experience.

The OSEP project extends much further than the NATS operation. By harnessing innovation and new ways of thinking about airspace design, we have unlocked new possibilities for reducing CO2 emissions and enhancing airspace efficiency, and ultimately, shaping a more sustainable future for aviation.


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