Reducing Vertical Flight Inefficiency (VFE) to improve network performance

Maximising vertical flight efficiency is in the interests of all actors since it reduces fuel burn and therefore emissions. Monitoring the adverse impact of vertical constraints on airspace users (arising from inter alia demand-capacity balancing, noise abatement procedures, air traffic control handover agreements) is an important part in reviewing air navigation service performance.

With that in mind, EUROCONTROL’s Performance Review Commission (PRC) has implemented a set of methodologies to analyse vertical flight efficiency in the climb & descent and separately in the en-route phase.

On 26 November 2018 the PRC held a Vertical Flight Efficiency (VFE) Workshop at HQ, supported by DECMA’s Performance Review Unit, to present its findings to around 100 aviation stakeholders representing air navigation service providers (ANSPs), airlines, airports, manufacturers and civil aviation authorities.

The workshop reviewed three case studies that highlighted different aspects of VFE, as follows:

  • climbs and descents from/into London Heathrow together with the en-route VFE for flights between London Heathrow and Amsterdam;
  • climbs and descents from/into Oslo Gardermoen;
  • climbs and descents from/into Brussels combined with en-route VFE for flights from Brussels to Geneva and from Lyon to Brussels.

For each case study, the workshop’s attendees discussed the various factors influencing VFE and mooted some ideas for best practices.

EUROCONTROL’s PRC obtained valuable stakeholder feedback which will be used to guide its future work on VFE. In particular, the main findings of the workshop were:

  • Adverse impacts from flight efficiency constraints have to be considered alongside the capacity requirements, both locally and at network level;
  • The methodologies and metrics used by the PRC provide valuable results in identifying significant VFE inefficiencies;
  • The PRC notes that many ANSPs are already tackling the issue of VFE through local initiatives including new tools and procedures;
  • A comprehensive approach to VFE cannot be done by operational stakeholders alone: non-operational factors (e.g. political decisions) can impact flight efficiency and can be enablers/impediments to improvement.

Custom Vertical Flight Efficiency report

The PRC also presented a new online reporting tool that enables stakeholders to request a specific airport VFE report for the climb & descent phases of flight, accessible below. A similar tool will become available soon for the en-route phase of flight.