Last week the EUROCONTROL Network Manager (NM) and operational partners DSNA, NATS, NAV CANADA and the IAA supported Airbus in performing the first long-haul fello’fly demonstration of a formation flight conducted in air traffic regulated airspace.
NM validated the flight plans for the flights of the leader and the follower aircraft leaving Toulouse for Montreal and their return, and stood ready to assist in cases of ATFM issues.
“Supporting the aviation sector in achieving its decarbonisation targets is a key priority for the EUROCONTROL Network Manager and I am proud that our team is working alongside Airbus, airlines and air navigation service providers on such an innovative approach to reduce emissions from aviation on long-haul flights. I congratulate the team on the successful test flights and look forward to continue the excellent cooperation.”
On 9 November 2021 two A350 test aircraft, MSN001 and MSN059, the former as the leader aircraft and the latter as the follower flew 3 kilometres apart across the Atlantic, from Toulouse, France to Montreal, Canada. It is estimated that over 6 tons of CO2 emissions were saved on this flight, confirming the potential for more than a 5% fuel saving on long-haul flights. The aircraft returned to Toulouse on 10 November.
For fello’fly flights to be integrated into existing commercial air traffic operations, the regulatory framework to support the use of the technology will first need to be made widely available. Test flights like these aim to prepare the ground for this. EUROCONTROL will have a key role to play at this stage, providing crucial traffic flow information that will help identify the most probable aircraft pairs in real time, and facilitating on-time departures in the aircraft planning stage to take advantage of wake energy retrieval in the air.
For every flight in European skies, pilots intending to depart from, arrive at or fly over one of the countries that are part of the operational area of the EUROCONTROL NM must submit a flight plan to our operations centre (NMOC). Flight plans from aircraft operators (AOs) are received by the NMOC, which validates, corrects (if necessary), and distributes them to the air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and operational partners concerned.