easyJet has become the inaugural airline partner to embrace the Iris program, an initiative led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and global communications company Viasat. The Iris program leverages state-of-the-art satellite technology to usher in a new era of modernized air traffic management (ATM).
Certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Iris service provider ESSP has gathered support from 15 leading Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) to facilitate the start of the first commercial flights across Europe this year. This marks a significant milestone as it puts the Single European Skies initiative into tangible action.
Why Iris for easyJet?
The deployment of Iris enables easyJet to operate its Airbus A320neo aircraft with unprecedented efficiency, resulting in notable improvements in fuel burn and emissions reductions. Efficient airspace utilization stands as a crucial element in the airline industry’s journey towards achieving net-zero emissions.
In 2022, easyJet unveiled its interim science-based carbon reduction target of a 35% improvement in carbon emissions intensity by FY2035, based on a FY2020 baseline. This commitment aligns with the airline’s overarching goal of attaining net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Today, we’re announcing our roadmap to reach net-zero by 2050. It’s the most ambitious airline net-zero roadmap to-date, with a focus on new technology as it becomes available 🌱 pic.twitter.com/KVqyqLHtPB— easyJet (@easyJet) September 26, 2022
“Adopting Iris technology on these aircraft will enable easyJet to fly more directly and efficiently, thereby reducing carbon emissions as well as enhancing our on time performance – which in turn improves our customers’ experiences” said Hugh McConnellogue, Director of Operations & Navigation at easyJet in a statement.
Optimizing airspace usage holds the key to significant carbon reductions, as more direct flight paths translate to shorter travel times, reduced fuel consumption, and lower emissions.
Moreover, this optimization is vital for fulfilling the Single European Sky’s ATM Research (SESAR) ambition of delivering a 10% reduction in carbon emissions from European aviation.
The technology behind it
Iris signifies a technological evolution, as faster and more reliable satellite communications between aircraft and ground control.
This advancement empowers air traffic controllers and pilots to achieve heightened operational efficiencies by determining the shortest available routes, cruising at optimal altitudes, and utilizing continuous climb and descent paths.
“ESSP is delighted to operate this moment of synchronisation between all stakeholders, from industry to airlines, with the proactive contribution of numerous Air Navigation Service Providers,” said Charlotte Neyret, CEO of ESSP, adding: “Thanks to all partners, ESSP is proud to provide Iris Satcom datalink service to Europe, as well as to initiate the Iris flights with a key airline such as easyJet.”
Viasat’s SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S) connectivity platform, the driving force behind Iris, lays the foundation for multilink data link communications. Joel Klooster, SVP Flight Safety and Advanced Air Mobility at Viasat, praised easyJet’s role in this historic milestone.
“We are thrilled to see Iris flying with a leading airline such as easyJet, a crucial step on our pathway to reducing emissions and easing congestion in European skies,” he stated, adding: “We want to thank all the partners who played a part in achieving this long-term goal, and we look forward to seeing the results of these first commercial flights.”
In addition to that, is important to note that Iris is already certified by Airbus on the A320 and A330 series aircraft allowing for a seamless and direct integration operations.
The role of the European Space Agency
As stated above, the European Space Agency, which is funding the Iris program, aims to support the European Policy on Single European Skies.
This solution, characterized by full European coverage and state-of-the-art satellite communication mobile technologies, has been developed in coordination with European aviation stakeholders, including the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
“These first Iris commercial flights put Europe firmly at the forefront of the digitalisation and modernisation of Air Traffic Management. Iris enables tangible benefits to the commercial aviation community and society at large,” said Javier Benedicto, acting Director of Connectivity and Secure Communications at ESA.
Notably, In 2022, Viasat and ESA signed a contract to globalize the Iris program with Iris Global, expanding its reach beyond Europe to regions including Asia, the USA, the Middle East, and Australia. This global initiative aims to share the fuel, CO2, and congestion-saving benefits of Iris with the world.