Controller Strikes Slow Progress of 'Network Manager'

 - August 21, 2014, 2:03 PM
Headquartered in Brussels, Eurocontrol serves as 'network manager' of the European ATC system. (Photo: Eurocontrol)

In its relatively new role as Europe’s ATC “network manager,” Eurocontrol achieved its time target for en route flight delays in 2013. But more so than in the previous year, air traffic controller job actions prevented better performance, the agency said.

En route air traffic flow management (ATFM) delay measured in minutes per flight—the main indicator of network performance—was 0.53 minutes per flight last year, exceeding its target of 0.6 minutes per flight, Eurocontrol said in its second annual network manager report, released this month. “This was particularly creditable in a year that was marked by a significant amount of industrial action” which was “even more disrupting” than in 2012, the agency added.

Those actions caused 680,000 minutes of delays—13.6 percent of total en route delays in 2013. Without industrial action, the network would have achieved 0.46 minutes per flight of en route delay. “Moreover, it has a significant impact on flight efficiency, as the aircraft are rerouted to avoid the affected area. This contributed to over 700,000 additional nm [flown] in 2013,” Eurocontrol said.

Strikes by French controllers and other air traffic management personnel in June and October of 2013 contributed the most to industrial action delays, Eurocontrol said. At the time, trade unions representing European controllers opposed the package of amendments to Single European Sky regulations known as SES 2+. Job actions in Greece and Portugal in June 2013, France in September, and Italy and Tunisia in October had a smaller impact on delays.

Eurocontrol has compiled a “repository of measures for industrial action and contingency plans” to manage job actions at the network level, according to the annual report. To lessen the impact of such actions, it has adopted the principles of “adequate advanced information, preparation of mitigation measures, coordination, teleconferences and robust post-ops analysis.”

The European Commission created the network manager function under Single European Sky 2 legislation and nominated Eurocontrol for that role in July 2011. The agency is working in “reference period 1,” extending from 2012 to 2014. A second reference period runs through 2019, after which Eurocontrol said it will seek re-designation as network manager.