SESAR 2020: Momentum is everything

Mar. 3, 2017

Momentum is critical in aviation, from aircraft reaching take-off speed, to air traffic controllers keeping them separated, to airports managing passenger throughput. But delegates in the dedicated SESAR 2020 session on day one at this year’s World ATM Congress learnt that momentum is also critical throughout the air traffic management value chain, from research and innovation cycles and programme transitions to cost-efficient operations all the way through to system-wide modernisation demanded by Europe’s Single European Sky (SES) strategy.

Indeed, SESAR itself is building on momentum started under SESAR 1 with its SESAR 2020 programme to deliver a stream of innovative technologies responding to the world’s pressing ATM needs, from capacity and environmental issues to safety, service and the need for better connected operations.

The panel session gave SESAR 2020 members a chance to discuss how innovations flowing from exploratory research into industry serve airspace users and passengers, as well as efforts to achieve wider SES political, legal, environmental and socio-economic mandates. Innovations such as the 61 SESAR Solutions already delivered in phase one, covering all parts of the ATM value chain and framed in the ATM Masterplan, noted Benoit Fonck of the SESAR Joint Undertaking in his introduction to the programme and panelists.

Philippe Merlo of Eurocontrol said more pragmatic solutions are needed which focus on performance and “quick wins” that airlines and airspace users can deploy faster without expensive avionics retrofits. He called for more “predictability and agility”, and acknowledged that the challenge is more process-driven than actual technology. Eurocontrol is an “honest broker” in all this, he said, especially in areas such as better trajectory management.

Bruno Ley of Airbus said SESAR 1 achieved some high-quality results now feeding into standards and rulemaking, but looks to SESAR 2020 and especially the Very Large Demonstrations (VLD) for clarifying and scaling performance improvements. Industrialisation and deployment are now the priority to accelerate further take-up, he suggested. Luc Lallouette recapped Thales’ experience of SESAR 1, stressing the importance of delivery-oriented R&D which can be deployed faster thanks to partnerships and flexibility. With fewer projects and more partners, SESAR 2020 has the chance to reinforce the good work and promote smooth transitions throughout the research chain to full implementation. The Pilot Common Projects drive this, he said.

Mark Burgess of SEAC said SESAR’s team was key to building the partnerships that are now driving customer-focused innovations forward under SESAR 2020. “Now we have to deliver on what we set out to do,” he said. For Thomas Buchanan of skyguide, SESAR 2020 R&D is the catalyst and the ATM Masterplan the blueprint for modernising Europe’s ATM. “SESAR helps us rethink our work too,” he said, including systems, capacity and cost issues.

Dirk Kügler of DLR echoed the pivotal role of R&D, from curiosity-driven to application-oriented work in areas like remote towers and total airport management, which find their way into the SESAR pipeline and programming: “The ATM research community is a key factor for continuous and persistent research developing new ideas and innovations into proven concepts that can be fed into SESAR’s validation chain, and subsequently into industry,” he concluded.