Australia Using New Air Traffic Plan to Bring Down Emissions

CHANGES are being made to the way aircraft fly and land in Australia in an attempt to cut aviation greenhouse emissions.

Initiatives announced yesterday by federal Transport Minister Mark Vaile are designed to cut aircraft fuel use and the amount of carbon dioxide they pump out, potentially slashing greenhouse emissions by hundreds of thousands of tonnes a year.

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus estimates that improved air traffic control measures could reduce fuel consumption by 10 per cent and air traffic controllers such as Airservices Australia are looking at ways to improve the system.

Mr Vaile said yesterday that measures would include more flexible flight tracks and improved air traffic control sequencing to reduce fuel burn, more efficient runway use, and continuous-descent approaches, which minimise speed changes.

The measures had strong environmental benefits and Airservices was working with airlines and airports, he said.

A program designed to improve the sequencing of aircraft into Australia began on Monday and was saving more than nine tonnes of C02 every day, he said.

The new system looks at aircraft 1000 nautical miles out of Australia, instead of 100 nautical miles, and sequences aircraft to land in more regular patterns. It takes advantage of the fact that typical twin-engine aircraft will burn 50kg of fuel every minute while manoeuvring at lower levels, as opposed to 5kg on the ground idling or 10kg at cruise.

''If we slow you at the upper level it might add two minutes of flight time but that's only burning 10kg of fuel per minute as opposed to manoeuvring and holding you at lower levels, where you might burn 40 or 50kg a minute,'' said Airservices spokesman Terry O'Connor.

The system allowed runways to be used at maximum efficiency during peak periods, he added.

Mr Vaile, who is attending the APEC transport ministers meeting Adelaide, said Australia supported a global approach to aviation emissions reduction through the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

He attacked a European plan to impose an emissions cap and trading scheme that would apply to all aircraft flying in and out of Europe. ''Aircraft flying, for example, from Sydney to London would be taxed under the European scheme, which places an unfair burden on long-haul carriers,'' he said.

Australian officials are pushing for an APEC-wide working group on reducing emissions.

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