CRISTAL ITP takes flight

Partners in the CRISTAL ITP project recently carried out the world’s first in-flight demonstration of a new procedure for oceanic airspace that saves fuel and reduces emissions during cruise.


The partners of an Airbus-led project called CRISTAL ITP (In-trail Procedure) recently carried out the world’s first in-flight demonstration of a new procedure for oceanic airspace that saves fuel and reduces emissions during cruise.



According to Airbus, the new in-trail procedure will enable aircraft to more easily perform altitude changes during cruise, which can significantly improve flight efficiency, reducing fuel burn and emissions. When an aircraft is not at its optimal altitude, aircraft fuel consumption and emissions are increased. As fuel is burned, the aircraft weight is reduced, and the aircraft then needs to climb to maintain its optimum cruise efficiency. Additionally, favourable winds can be found at higher or lower altitudes.



The demonstration flight took place in late March using an Airbus A340 test aircraft and an SAS A330, performing the trial in Icelandic airspace.



During the test, the A340 performed several altitude changes relative to the SAS A330 using a new aircraft system fitted on the A340 and including an Aviation Communication & Surveillance Systems (ACSS) Traffic Computer. Using this system the pilot was able to receive on the navigation display all the flight identification and positioning information regarding the surrounding aircraft. This new system, based on ADS-B (Automatic Dependant Surveillance – Broadcast), a new air-to-ground and air-to-air surveillance technology used to transmit aircraft information, is currently being certified by Airbus.



This new demonstration is said to be a significant step towards more flexible operations in an oceanic environment, enabled by new aircraft technologies and more efficient pilot-controller collaboration. Currently these kinds of manoeuvres are rarely possible in oceanic airspace due to the lack of radar systems. With the new technology, the flight crew can provide the controller with accurate information about their position relative to other aircraft. With the In Trail Procedure, the controller will use this information to allow altitude changes with reduced separations, providing more climbing opportunities.



Partners involved in the CRISTAL ITP trial include ISAVIA, Iceland’s air traffic control provider, NATS, the UK’s air traffic control provider, EUROCONTROL CASCADE programme, Airbus and SAS.