Flight Testing Above The Atlantic
Two different programs are trying out new flight procedures in the airspace above the Atlantic Ocean. The FAA has informed operators that a trial is underway that aims to establish lower aircraft separation minima within the Gander and Shanwick Oceanic Control Areas, in the North Atlantic airspace. The Reduced Longitudinal Separation Minimum Trial (PDF) will reduce the longitudinal separation requirement from 10 minutes to 5 minutes for eligible aircraft. No application is required -- if pilots are properly equipped and have minimum navigation performance specification approval, they can simply request a change in altitude. "Aircraft will benefit by having a greater opportunity to climb to more fuel-efficient levels as well as change speed or altitude due to turbulence or bad weather," the FAA said. Meanwhile, NATS, which provides air traffic control services for the United Kingdom, is testing a project called "Topflight" that aims to minimize emissions and delays on trans-Atlantic routes.
The Topflight project will operate 60 trans-Atlantic flights over four months between Heathrow and a number of North American airports. In this test phase, procedures will be optimized, including pushback, taxi, the flight profile and a continuous descent approach, with the goal to save about 500 kg in fuel per trip. "The aim is to prove that the concept is scalable and can be implemented for many flights at the same time without penalizing those in the surrounding airspace," said NATS. The FAA and NavCanada are cooperating with the project. "It is hoped the project will have a sustainable and lasting impact," said NATS. Martin Rolfe, managing director of operations for NATS, said: "The Topflight project is a great example of the aviation industry working together and we are delighted to be leading it. The industry has an opportunity to improve its environmental performance and the efficiency and fuel savings make great business sense too. It should be a win-win situation for everyone involved."