Progress on measures to implement Single European Sky must be translated into results, say airlines
The nine European FABs (source: Eurocontrol)
Wed 9 Mar 2011 – A high-level conference in Budapest organised by the Hungarian Presidency and the European Commission to instil momentum into attempts to modernise and streamline Europe’s inefficient air traffic management system has agreed on implementing key measures. However, European airlines have warned that the progress must be translated into results if the Single European Sky project is to realise ambitions of saving 500,000 tonnes of CO2, 150,000 tonnes of fuel and 200 million euros in fuel burn and flight time. Two weeks ago, the Commission adopted a regulation to harmonise information between member states and end the fragmentation of Europe’s air space. Meanwhile, the Commission has launched a satellite navigation service for aviation that will enable more efficient plotting of flight routes and approaches resulting in a decrease in carbon emissions and fewer delays.
The Budapest conference focused on identifying tangible measures to finalise implementation of the Single European Sky (SES) and have been collected and detailed in a ‘Budapest Charter’ that will, says the Commission, complement the SES implementation roadmap and will be used to monitor progress.
Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, acknowledged the construction of a true single sky had entered a crucial phase and called for concerted action.
“We must put in place the concrete mechanisms that will allow the SES package to be implemented in time,” he said. “We must maintain the level of ambition that was set for us by the European institutions in establishing a long-term sustainable framework for air traffic management. This will not only give a boost to the industry; it will also make flights cheaper and reduce their impact on the environment. Our shared commitment to work quickly and constructively will determine the ultimate success of the Single European Sky.”
The Association of European Airlines (AEA) warned that the “tortuous” process towards the Single Sky, which had already taken too long, continues to be beset by delay.
“Every delay to the programme puts all these benefits on hold. We appreciate that events such as this conference, and the political decisions announced as part of the proceedings, move the process forward. Nevertheless, we need concrete actions to actually reduce delays, emissions and costs,” said AEA Secretary General Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus.
“We call upon EU member states to implement without further delay the necessary steps. It has been demonstrated time and time again that the Single Sky can become reality without compromising safety or endangering employment of the air traffic managers. We cannot understand any justification for attempting to water down and delay efforts to improve European competitiveness.”
The airline industry body also called for a commitment for public funding of SESAR, the technological component of the SES. It said new communications and navigation equipment will need to be installed in aircraft flying in European airspace as the SES gained momentum, “a cost beyond the resources of the airlines”.
Said Schulte-Strathaus: “The Single Sky is a genuine trans-European infrastructure project and deserves to have access to the EU funding available for such undertakings.”
Announced at the conference, the European Union and the United States have signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on civil aviation research and development, as well as a first annex covering cooperative activities and interoperability aspects in the framework of their respective SESAR and NextGen programmes.
The agreement by EU member states to put an end to the fragmentation of Europe’s air space is a major step towards the establishment of the SES, claims the European Commission. Nine common geographical airspaces – called Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) – are due to be created by December 2012 and will form one of the cornerstones of the SES.
Currently, each member state controls its own airspace with different, pre-determined routes across the countries, which means planes have to zig-zag inefficiently across Europe, leading to extended flight times and fuel burn and unnecessary carbon emissions. The establishment of FABs, by which member states collectively re-design and rationalise their airspace in order to better respond to airline needs, will contribute to the defragmentation of airspace.
The incorporation of all phases of flights, from airport to airport, in a global gate-to-gate approach to air traffic management, the centralisation of operational functions managed at a European level and the deployment of new technologies will also bring major added value to the SES, said the Commission.
In a separate move, the Commission has launched the EGNOS ‘Safety-of-Life’ service for aviation, which will enable precision approaches and help reduce flight delays and cancellations. The free-to-use EGNOS satellite-based augmentation system also aids the planning of shorter, more fuel-efficient routes and therefore reduce carbon emissions. The optimised flight routes and curved approach procedures made possible by EGNOS will allow planes to commence their descent closer to the runway, limiting noise to the area near airports.
In order for the service to be used, aircraft need to be equipped with an EGNOS-enabled receiver and airports must have EGNOS-specified approach procedures for their runways.
EGNOS – the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service – is made up of transponders aboard three geostationary satellites and an interconnected ground network of 40 positioning stations and four control centres. It was launched in October 2009 and since then has been available for open applications such as personal navigation and precision farming. Following a certification and verification process, the system is now also authorised for aviation use.
“EGNOS will considerably increase the safety of air navigation, provide economic benefits to airports and airlines, and help reduce CO2 emissions,” announced the Commission’s Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship. “The aviation industry can now take full advantage of the system.”