Workshop discusses proposal to optimise Europe’s skies

Nov. 27, 2018

On 20-21 November, stakeholders from across air traffic management (ATM) returned to Brussels to discuss the preliminary results of the airspace architecture study, which aims to increase capacity and resilience in Europe’s en-route airspace. 

Opening this second workshop, Florian Guillermet, SESAR Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU), recalled the sense of urgency to tackle airspace capacity in Europe that was expressed by stakeholders when they met in a first workshop in July. Building on their feedback and a series of bi-laterals, the SESAR JU in close collaboration with the Network Manager have released preliminary material about the proposed future architecture, a transition strategy for implementing it and recommendations on how to enable a successful outcome.

Joe Sultana, Network Manager, reminded the audience that the growth and complexity of traffic means that it cannot be business as usual. “We need a game changer to tackle capacity starting with addressing controller workload and airspace design,” he said.

Ruben Flohr, SESAR JU and Razvan Bucuroiu, Network Manager jointly presented on the benefits of coupling airspace, technology and data solutions. It kicked-off with presenting the new approach to airspace design optimisation in the emerging context of free route airspace. Then the SESAR Solutions relevant for en-route ATC were explained, assessing their contribution to capacity improvement, as well as to increased resilience and scalability of ATM service delivery. The coupling of airspace, technology and data solutions like virtualisation, dynamic airspace configuration and CNS enhancements, ultimately enable a more agile and optimised ATM service delivery, in support of forecasted and actual airspace users needs as they emerge.

The study also proposes a transition strategy with a progressive implementation of solutions, which was presented by Alain Siebert, SESAR JU. In the short term, the study underlines the importance of the timely deployment of the Pilot Common Project, as well as a swift implementation of the datalink recovery plan. At the same time, the study calls for the launch of an EU airspace re-configuration supported by operational excellence programme to identify best practices and quick-wins across all stakeholders (e.g., operational procedures, rostering, collaborative DCB processes). Also in the short term, an enabling framework for ATM Data Service Providers, capacity-on-demand service and rewards for early should be created.

Two panels of stakeholders discussed the proposal on the table, providing the perspective of their stakeholder groups. Here are some highlights of those discussion:

  • Urgent action is needed today to ensure improvements are in place already for next summer as passengers deserve better. The European airspace architecture needs to be flexible and resilient, guaranteeing en route traffic flow and shifting capacity in response to demand. (Manfred Mohr, IATA)

  • Professional staff are part of the solution when it comes to addressing airspace capacity - the human factor must be addressed in future changes to the airspace architecture, such as the impact of automation, allocation of resources, acceptance management, etc (Gauthier Sturtzer, European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF), representing the professional staff organisations)

  • The proposed target architecture focuses on en-route airspace but we welcome that it recognises the importance of TMA/approach and airport capacity. (Luc Laveyne, ACI Europe)

  • The recommendations of the study are pragmatic – we have to start somewhere. Incentivising the implementation of early capacity-enabling SESAR solutions is a win-win for all and will accelerate the optimisation of the European airspace. (Iacopo Prissinotti, ENAV representing A6 Alliance and CANSO Europe)

  • We need smart incentivisations and the prioritisation of capacity-enabling solutions, based on performance needs, in the short, medium and long term (Vincent De Vroey, ASD Europe)

  • We have to change our mindsets and go for early quick win implementations of SESAR Solutions to address the capacity crunch in our skies. (Achim Baumann, A4E)

  • We stand ready to collaborate on implementing the recommendations towards the target architecture outlined in the study for the benefit of an optimised the capacity of the European airspace. (Christophe Vivier, EDA)

  • We need a detailed assessment of the required regulatory changes to complement the proposed transition strategy towards the target airspace architecture. (Nathalie Dejace, EASA)

  • We need to be more net-centric and to stop working in silos when it comes to managing air traffic in Europe. We are on the threshold of change, the solutions are there, let us implement them. (Kari Siekkinen, Finnish Transport Safety Agency)

Wrapping up, Florian Guillermet said: “Our study on airspace architecture is about unravelling the airspace capacity challenge, proposing quick wins to optimise the airspace and a transition strategy. To succeed, we need stakeholder commitment, political will and a sound project management approach.”

The SESAR JU will finalise the study findings and submit to the European Commission for next steps: “We are at a crossroads with many aspects of the Single European Sky. There is political will to address airspace capacity: we need to make use of SESAR technologies and a framework to deliver the necessary performance in Europe’s skies. Let’s keep up the momentum,” said Maurizio Castelletti, which concluded the workshop proceedings.