Gérard Batistella, SEAC

European ATM sector has started to act as a 'community'

2016 marks the completion of the first phase of SESAR research and innovation (SESAR 1) and the delivery of technological and operational solutions ready for deployment. In this article, Gérard Batistella, Single European Sky Director, Groupe ADP, shares his thoughts on the achievements of the SESAR JU partnership.

By Gérard Batistella, Single European Sky Director, Groupe ADP, on behalf of the SEAC Consortium

The SESAR European Airport Consortium, SEAC, has provided hub airport expertise to the SESAR research programme. This has included knowledge of current research results from international and national research programmes and corresponding future requirements.

SEAC consists of six major airport operators from five different countries. Although they are to some extent commercial competitors outside SESAR within SEAC the consortium members have shared a common view of the future of airport operations within the European network. Frank exchanges have turned into real friendship over the years.

The consortium has highlighted to other aviation partners the need for airport performance and growth to be considered within the overall network, even though airports of similar size and functionality may have entirely different requirements. All categories of airports need to be supported if they are to simultaneously achieve the SESAR targets of increased safety, capacity and efficiency while reducing the environmental impact on climate change and minimising the health effects of noise and emissions.

SEAC has benefitted from cooperation and an exchange of information with the other stakeholders in the programme. Representing commercially successful entities from some of the economically strongest countries of Europe, we have come to understand the extremely different starting points of ANSPs and airports in other regions of Europe and their individual needs and reservations in terms of European harmonization and modernization.

SEAC is aware of the difficulty in creating and managing a programme that considers these very different starting points. But as global airport companies with hub expertise, competing with innovative and rapidly-expanding airports in other regions of the world, SEAC would like to see more aspects of the programme move to the ‘next steps’ phase - even for the most modern hub airports in Europe. We would like to see further work completed on concepts such as artificial intelligence based ATM systems, or the integration of RPAS and automated air vehicles in airport operations.

It is a significant achievement of the SJU that the European ATM sector has started to act as a ‘community’ in the best sense of the word. This common purpose was prominent during the two updates of the ATM Masterplan, where SEAC represented the airport stakeholder group and closely collaborated with ACI Europe to include smaller and regional airports.

In all, SESAR 1 has been a successful programme which has introduced and harmonized valuable innovations into airport operations - such as “Follow-the-Greens” and airport operations centres - as well as improving the overall integration of airports within the ATM network. SEAC welcomes the start of SESAR2020 and the benefits of further integration of airports into the ATM network, along with the introduction of new airport proposals for greater efficiency and capacity and the opportunity for research that will improve the integration of airports within the local community especially in terms of health and environment.