Europe considers a new plan for ATM integration by 2020

 - September 25, 2006, 1:27 PM

Faced with the likelihood of the number of flights in Europe doubling to 17 million by 2020, the European Commission launched the ambitious Single European Sky (SES) ATM implementation program– now dubbed Sesar, replacing the former Sesame moniker.

With Sesar, the European Union aims to end the current fragmented approach to air traffic management, accelerate the ATM evolution outlined by the embryonic SES regulations, synchronize and integrate plans from research to operations and coordinate airborne and ground deployments.

As a result of Sesar implementation, the re-engineered network is expected to triple ATM capacity, improve safety by at least a factor of 10 and reduce environmental impact by 10 percent. In addition, delays should be less than 15 minutes 99 percent of the time and passenger handling should take less than 30 minutes at airports. Target date for implementation is 2020.

Bo Redeborn, Eurocontrol’s director of ATM strategies, outlined the new concepts and tools to be implemented as part of Sesar. Key features include reconfiguring the airspace structure so it can behave as one dynamic continuum embracing 4-D trajectories, autonomous airborne separation, air-ground datalink and satellite navigation and communications.

Developing a Master Plan

Sesar is a radical change from the piecemeal approach of previous ATM modernization programs, under which operators, manufacturers and even service providers were often caught by ambitious but unrealistic schedules set by the regulators. To achieve maximum buy-in, the Sesar Consortium will develop a master plan that brings together for the first time the European Commission, Eurocontrol and the industry (airspace users, air navigation service providers [ANSPs], airports and manufacturers) as well as pilots, controller unions and research centers.

The Sesar master plan will also incorporate U.S. contributions, through the FAA/ Eurocontrol Memorandum of Cooperation.

Sesar will be implemented in two phases. A definition phase that will run to the end of next year will define the ATM master plan. The implementation phase has two sub-phases–a development, validation and deployment phase (2008 to 2013) and a second deployment phase from 2014 to 2020. The $70.3 million (€60 million) definition phase is funded jointly by Eurocontrol and the European Commission under a Trans-European Network Transport plan. The contract to the Sesar Consortium itself is worth $50.4 million (€43 million).

The development phase, which will focus on system design and producing the key system components, is estimated at around $351 million (€300 million) per year, one-third of which is funded by the industry. During the third phase, deployment of the system is expected to be financed solely by industry.

Each step of the definition phase will be defined clearly and agreed on by all stakeholders. To ensure further transparency, a Sesar joint undertaking will be created on the model of the Galileo satellite-nav program that will oversee the necessary resources and lead the work. Eurocontrol will play a leading role in the management and coordination of the joint undertaking. A kick-off workshop will take place early next year.

In addition to being a new illustration of the public private partnership approach, Sesar is also a major European industrial project, as ambitious as the Galileo program. Jacques Barrot, vice president of the European Commission in charge of transport, said that Sesar will add around $58.6 billion (€50 billion) to European growth and will create almost 200,000 highly skilled jobs.

EBAA is part of the Sesar consortium, so the agency carrying out the forecast study has not overlooked business aviation. Conrad Cleasby, head of the data information and analysis business division, explained that the aim of this study is to better understand the current and future trends of this largely unknown sector of aviation in Europe. He also confirmed that the results of this forecast study will be presented at EBACE in Geneva in May.

Focus on Safety and Airports

In the meantime, Eurocontrol will keep itself busy with its day-to-day business and various projects involving safety, airports, forecasts and air traffic flow management developments.

Recognizing that airports will not be able to cope with the traffic growth, Eurocontrol has taken several initiatives to boost airport safety and improve airport operations.

According to George Paulson, director of ATM programs, by enhancing existing safety nets such as advanced surface movement guidance and control systems and displaying alert information in the cockpit, Eurocontrol aims to reduce the number of serious runway incursions by 50 percent by 2009.

It also seeks to maintain an average ATM-caused airport delay of less than one minute by implementing such measures as releasing latent capacity, better information sharing through collaborative decision making and an enhanced slot-allocation process.

Airport delays are increasing and currently account for more than 37 percent of all air traffic flow management delays. Paulson is confident that up to 30 percent more capacity can be released by the increased use of secondary airports, and by sharing best practices of airport operations that can benefit the whole airport network.

In the wake of the 2001 fatal accidents at Milan Linate Airport in Italy and Überlingen in Germany in 2002, Eurocontrol recently launched the European Safety Program, which covers the analysis and sharing of incident reporting data, the adoption by states of a “just culture” policy toward safety reporting by pilots and controllers, and the implementation of warning tools and ACAS downlink.

By December 2008, it is expected that all ECAC states will reach a maturity score of 70 percent in terms of regulators’ performance and implementation of safety regulations. Eurocontrol will provide its support to less advanced ANSPs to implement a safety management system. It will also supervise full compliance with European safety regulations and SES legislation that will involve ANSP licensing.

Jean-Robert Bauchet, director of the central flow management unit (CFMU), said, “Ten years ago, the priority was all about punctuality; tomorrow it will be all about cost-efficiency.” Today, the CFMU services cost less than 2 percent of the total cost of ATC services in Europe.