Airlines and the organization representing Europe’s air navigation service providers (ANSPs) agree that the continent must modernize and streamline its ATC system. But two decades into the pursuit of a smoothly functioning Single European Sky, “there has not been as much progress” as airlines need to remain strong, said Tony Tyler, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Tyler spoke on February 12 at the inaugural World ATM Congress in Madrid, sponsored by the U.S.-based Air Traffic Control Association and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (Canso), which represents Europe’s ANSPs. Though emphasizing that he had not come to complain, Tyler castigated ANSPs for failing to integrate their operations and to make the changes necessary to improve an air traffic management system that costs airlines an extra €5 billion ($6.7 billion) annually in inefficiency and passengers 100 million hours a year in flight delays.
“There is precious little harmonization or interoperability between different ANSPs,” Tyler said. “Europe, which is supposed to have been moving toward a Single European Sky for almost 20 years, continues to have significant fragmentation and significant resistance to change…Notoriously, Europe’s ANSPs fought to water down already weak cost-efficiency targets, and then failed to reach even these modest goals.”
Simultaneously with Tyler’s speech, IATA, the Association of European Airlines and the European Regions Airline Association issued their own “blueprint” for a Single European Sky that calls for establishing an independent European regulator for air navigation charges; opening ATC services to competition and reducing the number of ATC centers across Europe to 40; and improving network efficiency through modernization. “The incentives of a competitive market are absent, and the coordination required across borders makes national oversight inadequate,” the report states.
In his remarks, Tyler said planning and investment decisions for ATC modernization and cost-benefit analyses should involve airlines. He said IATA wants to work with ANSPs to set modernization priorities under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) framework of aviation system block upgrades–sets of capabilities meant to improve operational performance as needed. For the short term, he recommended that ANSPs concentrate on three operational capabilities: performance-based navigation, continuous descent operations and continuous climb operations.
Tyler also offered to work with Canso and its member ANSPs on a joint industry position paper on the principle of “most capable, best served,” for submission at the 38th ICAO Assembly in September. The principle would ensure that airlines that invest in new technology would reap rewards for that investment with preferred routes and priority handling by ATC.