Study: Sesar Benefits Depend on Timely Deployment

 - August 29, 2011, 7:15 AM
Air traffic controllers at Eurocontrol’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Center in the Netherlands will be managing traffic using Sesar in the coming years. (Photo: Eurocontrol)

The economic, environmental and efficiency gains promised under the Single European Sky ATM Research (Sesar) program are “extremely sensitive” to timely implementation of the air traffic control modernization effort across Europe, according to the Sesar Joint Undertaking (SJU).

The on-time implementation of Sesar, compared with a scenario in which no modernization is attempted, would have a positive impact on European GDP from 2013 to 2030 of €419 billion ($604 billion), or a two-percentage-point increase in projected GDP annual growth, states a recent study commissioned by the SJU, a partnership of companies and stakeholders leading Sesar implementation. A delay of 10 years would cost €124 billion ($178 billion) directly to GDP, rising to €268 billion ($386 billion) when indirect supplier benefits and “induced” benefits are included.

Like the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) modernization effort in the U.S., Sesar is expected to simultaneously increase airspace capacity and make air transportation more efficient, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost overall economic growth. Major technology enablers will be “trajectory-based” flight profiles taking advantage of the shortest available routes and optimum altitudes; system-wide information management, or SWIM, facilitating shared decision-making by ATC elements; and automated data messaging between pilots and air traffic controllers.

The overall cost in ground infrastructure and avionics has been pegged at €30 billion ($43 billion) for Sesar, which is comparable to NextGen. This breaks out to €11 billion to retrofit civilian aircraft; €5 billion for forward-fit equipment; €7 billion for military aircraft; and €7 billion for air navigation service providers.

With Europe-wide implementation of the first Sesar capabilities planned for 2013, the SJU is pushing for prompt conclusion of policy decisions, such as those relating to governance and funding for the Sesar deployment phase, which is scheduled for 2014 to 2020. The modernization “would have a significant positive impact on Europe,” the study states. “However, the benefits of Sesar are extremely sensitive to its implementation timeline and coordination. The full impact can only be achieved if the timely and coordinated implementation of Sesar can be ensured.”

An avionics or ground system manufacturer that decides against investing in Sesar-related research and development and standards risks losing market share, “simply because its products will not reach the market until later,” the study warns. The study estimates a loss of market share of 20 percent based on a 10-year delay.