Eco Friendly Air Traffic Control Service Initiated in Sri Lanka on
International Air Traffic Controllers Day


Air Traffic Controllers all over the world celebrate " International Air Traffic Controllers Day" on the 20th  of  October every year.  Air Traffic Controllers in Sri Lanka, working at the Bandaranaike International Airport and Ratmalana Airport ,  have decided to mark this event by introducing a new concept which has a global demand. The "Green Concept", an environment friendly concept in the  service and production sectors. Sri Lanka has seen an Air Traffic growth of 20% during the last 2 years and as controllers we are very optimistic about the future aviation in Sri Lanka. The second International Airport in Hambanthota will be available to the aviation community in the very near future.    

An ambitious plan is launched by the Airport and Aviation Services (SL) Ltd, led by its chairman Mr.Prasanna Wickramasooriya, to gain Green Status for the main  airports in Sri Lanka. There are very few Green Airports in the world.  The new airport constructed in Mattala is going to be a "Green Airport" from the start.

A Green Airport will have  minimum impact to the environment in terms of Carbon emissions and will have  Zero Carbon Foot Print .Also  it will have a 100% Rainwater Harvesting System, Waste Water Management System, Energy Management System ( use of zero carbon emission energy sources such as hydro, solar, wind,  etc..) to support, to achieve the objective. In an airport the major contributor of CO2 to the environment are the airplanes. Air Traffic Control department, handling over 240 aircraft movements a day (including overflying)  in the Colombo Flight Information Region (FIR)  has taken initiatives to minimize the carbon emissions in order to reduce the Carbon  Foot Print.

Air Traffic Controllers Attached to the three controlling units of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) System, namely Control Tower (TWR), Approach Control Centre (APP) and Area Control Centre (ACC) are very keen,  with a lot of interest, taking initiatives to contribute to this project by minimising aircraft delays and providing a very efficient ATC service, with the use of  technology such as long range radar, satellite navigation systems and the use of smart IT solutions.

The Air Traffic Controllers attached to the ACC are the major contributors for this Carbon Emission Reduction Program as they are involved in controlling aircraft in a larger airspace ( 900,000 sq nm) . The methods use at the ACC are the Direct Routes (less distance from the normal Flight Plan Route)  and Flex Tracks.( using the advantage of the upper wind flow on a daily basis and selecting the most efficient route for long range overflying aircraft). The Controllers at the ACC  even go further by providing direct routes into the Indian airspace with the coordination with the Controllers in India. The rapport and the understanding  between  the Controllers in India and Sri Lanka has been excellent, which gives opportunities to provide  efficient Air Traffic Control Service in the region. I on behalf of all the ATCs in Sri Lanka wish all the ATCs  in India and all over the world "A Very Happy   ATC Day".

A survey conducted by the controllers in the ACC during a 16 hour period involving 18 aircrafts  Overflying, Departing and Arriving ) was able to reduce 277.2 tones of CO2 emissions, and save 2300 kg of fuel for the airlines,  saving a distance of 205nm,  by giving direct routes to aircraft. In order to reduce CO2 emissions aircraft are provided with continuous climbs and continuous descends, fuel economical flight levels, fuel efficient pilot initiated approaches ( self positioning for landing) etc..

Approach Controllers too contribute for this CO2 emission reduction programme by reducing the delays of aircraft through various initiatives. Approach Controllers, by using Radar Services efficiently, sequence aircraft for landing and whenever possible offer pilot initiated approaches for the landing. During acceptable wind conditions with the cooperation of the pilots opposite runways are used for departures and arrivals, saving track distance of the aircraft and reducing the CO2 emission significantly.

Tower Controllers have a big responsibility in managing the apron  efficiently allocating parking positions for aircraft. Controllers   consider the arrival times and departure times of the aircrafts and allocate parking positions avoiding on ground delays . Also the controllers use their  experience in expediting the take-offs and landings very efficiently minimising the delays.

All the Air Traffic Control Centers will go paperless in the near future. This will reduce CO2 emissions indirectly and also will help to prevent environmental damage. Initially the Colombo ACC will be using electronic strips instead of paper strips to record the progress of each aircraft before the end of 2011.This "CO2 Emission Reduction Programme" initiated by the Air Traffic Controllers will extend to other departments in the airport too through awareness programs.

It is only a positive initiative that all of us have to take in order to reduce CO2 emissions to the environment, by being concern and aware about our environment.   Fortunately our country is  blessed with natural CO2 offsetting systems such as the large forest cover and the ocean around. But with the rapid development in all sectors in the country, everyone  should very seriously think of the impacts on the environment due to the development  and should bring controls to this very serious issue of Carbon Emission. I strongly believe that the "CO2 Emission Reduction Programme" launched by the Airport and Aviation Services (SL) Ltd will be a great success and all of us in the aviation community can be very proud of having " GREEN AIRPORTS" in the country.          

Sumith J. Tennakoon

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