The Free Routing Airspace (FRA) in Africa is set to revolutionise the aviation industry, ushering in cost-cutting measures, reduced fuel consumption, and a substantial decrease in carbon emissions.

Early this month, trial flights marked the tangible progress toward implementing this transformative initiative.

The Free Routing Airspace Trial kick-off workshop served as the platform for participants to coordinate with operational services and secure approvals for two pivotal trial flights.

Flight ET935 and KQ 508 successfully operated beyond established routes, connecting Addis Ababa to Abidjan and Nairobi to Accra, respectively, thereby significantly shortening their flight times.

Under the free routing, flights operate outside their stipulated pathways, shortening the distance that they would have covered if they were to use the traditional routes.

The implications of implementing Free Routing Airspace are far-reaching, promising substantial annual cost savings for participating airlines and fostering a sustainable future for the African aviation industry.

Over the course of a year, the shortened flight time for a one-way journey translates to avoiding the consumption of 292 tonnes of fuel, preventing the emission of 340 tonnes of Carbon dioxide, and reducing the operator’s fuel expenditure by an estimated $310,000.

Extrapolating similar savings for the return leg and extending free routing flights to 20 daily operations, airlines stand to reduce their CO2 footprint by 5 million tonnes and slash more than $1.2 million from their collective fuel bill.

The realization of free routing flights is being supported by the cooperation, collaboration, and commitment of key stakeholders, including CANSO, AFRAA, IATA, ICAO, and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs).

The project kick-off workshop, a crucial milestone in this endeavor, was sponsored by AFREXIMBANK.

Several ANSPs played pivotal roles in providing navigation services for these historic flights, including Ethiopia CAA, Kenya CAA, CAA Uganda, RVA (DRC), ASECNA, NAMA (Nigeria), and Ghana CAA.

The Free Routing Airspace project is one of the five LAB Projects of the African Aviation Industry Group African Aviation Sustainability Laboratory, which aimed to revamp air transport in Africa.

Anticipation now turns to the upcoming trials in the first quarter, poised to contribute significantly to materialising Free Routing Airspace in 2024.