European Airspace - Articles and news items
Issue 2 2012 • 29 March 2012 • Joe Sultana, Chief Operating Officer, Directorate Network Management, EUROCONTROL
On 24 January 2002 at 01.00 UTC, the Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) programme went live. At one stroke past, 6,000 air traffic controllers in 41 European states allocated aircraft to six new flight levels. Capacity gains of 25 per cent were made between 2002 and 2007.It was the biggest, most important project Europe had ever seen – and the first one to be implemented right across the continent, from North Africa to the Arctic. The programme increased capacity in the airspace of 41 states by providing six extra flight levels between 29,000 and 41,000 feet, bringing the total number of flight levels to 13.By reducing the number of aircraft sharing a given flight level, this change not only enhanced safety by allowing more aircraft to operate at their preferred flight levels, it also underpinned better en-route performance, reduced delays, lowered fuel consumption and boosted capacity. The average yearly cost benefits for aircraft operators were estimated at around €3.9 billion; savings derived from reductions in delay and fuel consumption. Europe’s upper airspace capacity grew by up to 25 per cent, helping airlines and other airspace users meet rising demand more effectively and simultaneously make substantial fuel savings.