Mon 30 Mar 2009 – European MEPs voted last week in favour of the Single European Sky II (SES II) legislative package that will bring about shorter flight times, reduced aircraft fuel consumption and therefore lower CO2 emissions. An agreement with transport ministers had been reached the previous week. EU airspace is currently broadly divided into 27 different systems under the control of national governments, each with different rules and ATC operations, leading aircraft to fly circuitous routes. The package will speed up the unification process with the creation of Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) before June 2012.
Despite a series of regulations adopted in 2004, the first SES package made little progress because of a failure to overcome numerous hurdles encountered when trying to integrate European airspace as States looked to protect their sovereignty.
The new regulations provide for a whole series of improvements that should benefit the aviation industry by an estimated two to three billion euros ($2.6-4bn) over the next 10 years, with 16 million tonnes of CO2 emissions being cut as a result of reduced flight times.
Performance schemes for air navigation services are to be introduced under which States must use incentives and sanctions to prompt air navigation service providers to meet binding targets. Independent national supervisory bodies are to be appointed by States to ensure safety and performance standards are met.
Around nine European FABs, including a single UK-Ireland zone, have so far been designed to replace the 27 current zones or blocks although insufficient progress has been made to date. The new regulation is expected to provide a fresh impetus by stipulating that FABs must be established by no later than June 2012. A coordinator will be appointed to facilitate the implementation of, and the merger between, the blocks. Funding will be made available from the Trans-European Network programme and the European Investment Bank and, according to an EP statement, from the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
“Flight routes will be shorter, air traffic control more efficient, and air navigation will be optimized and integrated,” commented MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu, the rapporteur on the legislation, during the debate. “As a direct consequence, less fuel will be burned and emissions would decrease significantly – all of these changes should bring a reduction in the price of tickets. By 2012, we will have a Schengen of the sky.”
Antonio Tajani, EC Transport Commissioner, responded : “We are sending a strong signal to our citizens, those working in the aviation sector and the industry itself. These proposals lead to a modernization of air traffic management which will render air transport more feasible, more sustainable and safer.”
Also last week, Eurocontrol unveiled its new flight data processing system at its Maastricht Control Centre, the first of its kind in Europe to be developed in accordance with European standards on interoperability between systems and therefore consistent with the philosophy behind the SES. The system makes it possible to reduce flight distances by calculating the most direct air routes possible, thus helping to reduce delays, costs, fuel and greenhouse gas emissions.
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