New 'single sky' deal to save a billion euros, cut emissions

A new deal struck by five EU states and Switzerland to jointly manage their airspace in a step to a 'single European sky,' will lead to savings of one billion euros, the European Commission said Friday.

The 2012-2014 deal between Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland will improve safety improvements, lead to fewer delays and lower costs, and will also reduce CO2 emissions.

Airspace users are expected to save 340 million euros (445 million dollars) per year while cutting back harmful CO2 emissions by 500,000 tons a year, the Commission said.

The deal struck the previous day to create the "Functional Airspace Block-Europe Central" involves an area at the core of Europe with one of the world's highest traffic densities and closely interwoven civil and military routes.

With most of the large European airports and major civil and military airways located inside this area, the commission dubbed the FABEC deal as "a key step in achieving the single European sky."

A single sky would see air control managed according to traffic flows rather than borders, enabling shorter flights and cuts in fuel.

Thursday's agreement follows a Britain-Ireland FAB, a Denmark-Sweden FAB and a Blue Med region gathering Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta along with associates Tunisia, Egypt and Albania. Other European Union states are expected to sign similar agreements in the next two years.

Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said the FABs would "satisfy the growing capacity requirements of all airspace users with a minimum of delays by managing air traffic more dynamically. At the same time, safety standards and overall efficiency will be enhanced."

In the environmental area, the European network manager - to be designated by the European Commission early in 2011 - will be entrusted with the responsibility of putting in place straighter and shorter routes and a more efficient use of European airspace.

This will result in estimated savings of 500,000 tonnes of CO2 and 150,000 tonnes of fuel per annum and 200 million euros of fuel burn and flight time.

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