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Greener flights come to Italy as ITA Airways joins Iris air traffic modernisation program

The Italian flag carrier will be the first full service airline in Europe to join the program developed by Inmarsat and European Space Agency

Technology

Digitally-connected flights to and from Italy will be available from this summer, as ITA Airways rolls out the European Space Agency (ESA) and Inmarsat’s new Iris data link technology to the cockpits of its full aircraft fleet, contributing to airspace modernisation in Europe. ITA Airways will be the first full service carrier in Europe to join Iris.

The program enables aircraft to fly more fuel-efficient routes by providing digital satellite communications to complement VHF data link, which is nearing a capacity crunch in congested airspace. Without fast and reliable data links between aircraft and the ground, the involved companies say, air traffic managers cannot unlock the 8-10% reduction in CO2 emissions identified by Eurocontrol from improved Air Traffic Management. Iris will allow ATM players to better anticipate and collaborate to maximise airspace use, reducing the impact of disruptions for passengers while reducing emissions.

The Italian national carrier will equip its full fleet of new Airbus A320neo and A330neo aircraft deliveries with Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S), the platform flying on more than 230 aircraft globally, which powers Iris. Its aircraft will also play a significant role in Iris demonstration flights, which will take place across European airspace supported by 14 Air Navigation Service Providers during 2023.

This news comes as five more airlines have now equipped aircraft with Inmarsat SB-S, after Airbus’ Light Cockpit Satcom terminal became available to order in December 2022. Current SB-S users include Virgin Atlantic, Jet2, and Transavia Airlines, in addition to ITA Airways and easyJet. Across the seven European airlines, 72 aircraft deliveries with Airbus LCS installed are anticipated during 2023-2024. Iris-capable Inmarsat terminals across many more of Europe’s commercial airlines will further support the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) masterplan.

Alessio Leone, Head of Camo Operations, at ITA Airways said “ITA Airways was born to guarantee Italy quality connectivity with a strong focus on the environmental impact through an important investment made in a homogeneous and technologically advanced fleet, which in 2026 will be made up of 80% of new generation aircrafts becoming the greenest fleet in Europe. We are proud to join the Iris programme, which is fully in line with our growth strategy as it reflects two of the core pillars of ITA Airways: sustainability and innovation”.

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