Key Targets For European Air Traffic Management “At Risk”


Progress reports published Friday on the Single European Sky – far-reaching proposals to put in place a pan-European air traffic management system by 2030 – “set alarm bells ringing.”

“There is a genuine risk that we will lag behind and find ourselves unable to satisfy the rising demands of air travel, which is set to nearly double by 2030”, said European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport. “2012 is a make or break year for the Single European Sky and there is a lot at stake. Despite efforts that have been made, the Commission’s “traffic light” assessment shows a large majority of Member States in the orange or red zones and at risk of not meeting critical targets for 2012.”

2012 is a critical year for the Single European Sky – there are four key deliverables:

  • the performance scheme, setting key air traffic management (ATM) targets (to start early in 2012);
  • the nine “functional airspace blocks” (to be operational by end-2012);
  • the ATM network manager (already designated as Eurocontrol);
  • the launch of the deployment phase of SESAR, the technological arm of the Single European Sky (from 2014), moving from the R&D phase to the rollout of new equipment and technology.

The “traffic light” assessments published today by the Commission – based on two progress reports – highlight serious cause for concern in relation to two major elements which go to the heart of the Single European Sky project: the performance scheme and the functional airspace blocks.

1. On the performance scheme:

The result: Only 5 out of 27 Member States (Belgium, Denmark, Lithuania, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) get a “green light” and are on track to meet both targets (for cost and capacity/delays) for the period 2012–14. The Commission has today issued recommendations asking Member States to revise these targets. If necessary the Commission could adopt a binding decision requesting the Member State(s) concerned to implement specific corrective measures, although a short time remains available for the targets to be met without recourse to this action.

Existing plans by Member States would fail to meet the EU-wide capacity target of 0.5 minute delay per flight in 2014. If this target were achieved, some €920 million would be saved over 2012–14 due to fewer and shorter delays.

In addition, national performance plans would miss the EU-wide target for ATM cost efficiency by 2.4% in 2014. This would have a a major impact, both on airspace users and on the credibility of the Single European Sky. To meet the target, additional measures are needed to achieve a €250 million saving over the entire three-year reference period (2012–14).

2. On the functional airspace blocks (FABs)

The result: All FAB blocks, except for one, the Danish/Swedish FAB, are in the orange or red zone and give serious cause for concern. The Commission is urging Member States to step up their actions. Failure to take measures at national level could oblige the Commission to re-open the SES legislative packages to introduce a more radical solution.

For detailed information on the two progress reports, performance targets and FABs see: MEMO/11/831.

Key Facts and figures: the Single European Sky

European skies and airports risk saturation. Without substantial investment to modernise Europe’s air traffic management system (the Single European Sky), our skies and airports will be jam-packed.

  • Already there are 1.4 billion passengers a year in 440 airports.
  • That’s 26 000 flights a day criss-crossing the European sky.
  • Each year there are 10 million flights; and that is growing by up to 5% each year.
  • So 16.9 million flights per year in 20 years’ time – that means in 2030 as many flights will cross Europe as there are inhabitants of Beijing.
  • The challenge – flights that are smooth, safe and on time.
  • Problem: the air traffic management system is archaic; some of the basic technologies used date from the 1950s.
  • Solution: modernisation of Europe’s airspace to create a pan-European air traffic management (ATM) system, modernising a fragmented patchwork of 27 national airspaces,
  • a) tripling the airspace capacity,
  • b) improving safety tenfold,
  • c) reducing environmental impact by 10%,
  • d) reducing air traffic management costs by 50%.

Single European Sky implemention – the European Commission, Member States EUROCONTROL, SESAR and the aviation sector.

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