Martin Rolf, Chief Executive Director, NATS

Driving progress in modernising Europe'sd airspace

Driving progress in modernising Europe’s airspace

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, Martin Rolf, Chief Executive Director, NATS, shares his thoughts on the achievements of the SESAR JU partnership.

What has your role been in developing SESAR research programmes; what experience and expertise have you been able to lend to the project?

NATS has played an active role in SESAR right from the start, supporting the Definition phase of SESAR and contributing to projects in a number of the Work packages, including leading the TMA Work package. We have a strong track record of researching and developing innovative Air Traffic Management solutions which we’ve been able and happy to bring to the table in support of SESAR.

How important has it been to work with other stakeholders on the programme?

Working together and partnerships are at the heart of the whole vision of the Single European Sky, indeed at the heart of Europe as a whole. By working together, we can share our knowledge, our expertise and our creativity to develop innovative concepts that benefit the whole aviation industry.

I think one of the keys to SESAR’s success is the fact that it brings together the wider aviation industry – ANSPs, airports, airspace users and manufacturers – and creates an environment that encourages and facilitates collaboration. The reality is that we are all dependent on each other for our own success and working together to make Europe’s skies more efficient, more environmentally friendly, safer and better able to meet future demand will benefit us all. 

What do you think have been the major challenges and achievements of the SESAR JU?

The fact that ANSPs, airports and manufacturers now work together to develop ideas and solutions that will benefit not only themselves, but Europe’s airspace users and ultimately, their passengers, is a major step forward which SESAR has played a big part in.

SESAR and the SJU have helped to channel individual efforts into a more collective approach, which has helped to drive progress in modernising Europe’s airspace. There have been many challenges along the way: legal, political, technical, but I think what has helped to overcome all of that is the sense of shared purpose which has been created between the SESAR members.

What are your hopes for the future?

The key now is getting solutions ready for deployment and into operation. We’ve made a start: Time-Based Separation at Heathrow, the new Point Merge arrivals system for London City and the Cross-Border Arrivals Management System for Heathrow are all examples of SESAR concepts that we have deployed into our operation and that are already delivering benefits for customers. But of course there is much more still to do.

My hope is that the participants of SESAR continue to work together in a collaborative spirit in the follow-on SESAR 2020 Programme; that we get more SESAR concepts into a mature state where we can work with industry to develop deployable solutions; and that we accelerate the operational deployment of as many SESAR concepts that help us to deliver a better service for our customers as possible.