The term “operations” in the context of aviation can be used to describe a broad range of activities including: the flying of the airplane, the control and/or monitoring of the aircraft by the air traffic management system, and the conduct of various airport activities. Operations begin with planning activities even before the passengers and cargo are loaded, through the entire flight, until after the passengers have disembarked and the cargo has been unloaded. One constant that applies whenever it comes to defining operational procedures, is that safety must always come first.
The operational opportunities to reduce emissions represent a double win-win solution. First, based on the premise that the most effective way to minimize aviation emissions is to minimize the amount of fuel used in servicing and operating each flight, environmental benefits that are achieved through reduced fuel consumption also result in reduced fuel costs. Second, operational measures do not necessarily require the introduction of new equipment or the deployment of expensive technologies. Instead, they are based on different ways of operating aircraft that are already in service.
ICAO Publications and developments
In 2001, the ICAO Assembly requested the Council to promote the use of operational measures as a means of limiting or reducing the impact of aircraft engine emissions.
ICAO has published guidance material, in the form of the ICAO Circular 303-AN/176 published in February 2004, on operational opportunities to minimize fuel use and reduce emissions. The Circular includes information on aircraft ground level and in-flight operations, as well as ground service equipment and auxiliary power units. ICAO CAEP is working to update the information contained in the current Circular 303, with a view to develop a new guidance manual.
ICAO has emphasized to States that early implementation of new communications, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management (CNS/ATM) systems would be an effective means of reducing fuel burn and avoiding unnecessary emissions. The results of a preliminary study of the environmental benefits associated with CNS/ATM and the methodology for their assessment have been incorporated into the Global Air Navigation Plan for CNS/ATM Systems (Doc 9750).
CAEP developed rules of thumb to assist States with estimating the potential environmental benefits from the implementation of new operational procedures.
Towards the future
Aircraft operations are being optimized today to improve environmental performance while maintaining safety. With the realization of a global, interoperable, ATM system, in combination with technological advances, the eventual achievement of future goals for aviation environmental performance will become possible.