Trials with free route operations between Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and several airports in Italy have reduced flights by up to 35 nm each segment, saving 6 min. of flight time, 200 kg of fuel and 600 kg of emissions.

The free route operations were part of the Weekend Free Route for Environmental Efficiency, or We Free, project, which was developed within the Single European Sky ATM Research (Sesar) program and the European Route Network Improvement Plan to boost performance of Europe’s air transport system.

This cross-border project started two years ago to study and use of direct routes for flights between de Gaulle and eight Italian airports: Bologna Guglielmo Marconi, Genoa Cristoforo Colombo, Milan Linate, Pisa International, Rome Fiumicino, Turin International, Venice Marco Polo and Verona Villafranca airports. It involved the collaboration of French, Italian and Swiss air navigation services providers and two airlines, Alitalia and Air France.

The implementation of the free route airspace operations took place on two weekends, Nov. 16-17 and Nov. 23-24, and the results “have concretely demonstrated that the reform of the Single European Sky and the research and innovation of the Sesar program will lead to benefits with an absolute value for the entire air transport system both in terms of economic efficiency and respect for the environment,” says Massimo Garbini, CEO of Italian air services provider ENAV.

By summer 2014, at least 17 of the 64 European air traffic control centers will implement various steps of free route operations covering more than 25% of European airspace. As a result of these free route projects, airlines may cut 7.5 million nautical miles from their operations, which could save 45,000 tons of fuel and reduce emissions by 150,000 tons, according to Eurocontrol.