The SESAR Joint Undertaking, with the support of the European Commission, is putting in place a basket of measures to assist its members, many of whom are facing unprecedented economic challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. The measures, which were announced at the recently held SESAR JU Administrative Board meeting, aim to help industry in the short term, while also maintaining momentum in the research partnership’s activities.

The measures include showing flexibility towards projects, many of which involve airlines and other operational stakeholders whose operations are severely curtailed at present. Deadlines have been extended for recently published open calls to allow additional preparation time for the ATM stakeholders to prepare their proposals.

In addition, the SESAR JU proposes to inject additional budget into the programme and increase pre-financing support to members and beneficiaries. At the same time, it will limit members’ financial contributions for a period of time, facilitated by cutting the running costs of the SESAR JU to a strict minimum. 

We need to preserve the overall scope and level of ambition of the SESAR research and innovation programme. These measures aim to do that by providing much-needed breathing space to the aviation industry in the short term so that it can deal with the crisis while continuing to prepare for the future.

Henrik Hololei Chair of the SESAR JU Administrative Board and Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate General of Transport and Mobility

With traffic down 90% at the peak of the crisis, all parts of the aviation industry have been hugely impacted by COVID-19. While we have to deal with that crisis today, we also need to plan for the future. We need to ensure that our longer-term research is able to continue and deliver the technical solutions we will still need to ensure a sustainable aviation system, which is why EUROCONTROL will be continuing to drive forward research and innovation activities through the SESAR JU.

Eamonn Brennan Vice-Chair of the SESAR JU Administrative Board

In terms of the content of the programme, the SESAR JU is working with its members and partners on ways to adapt its research activities in response to emerging priorities, such as managing airport operations, while maintaining the predictability of traffic. The current crisis also reinforces the importance of moving ahead with key SESAR Solutions supporting the resilience and scalability of the ATM system, such as virtual centres, enabling greater flexibility in handling different volumes of traffic.

The coronavirus is underlining the urgency to advance on some of the critical elements of the future European airspace system. Automation, virtualisation and trajectory-based operations will be key in making the system more scalable, economically sustainable, environmentally efficient, and resilient in the long run.

Florian Guillermet Executive Director, SESAR Joint Undertaking