Eurocontrol’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Center (Muac) is supplying air traffic data to the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) in a project designed to better coordinate civil and military flights in some of Europe’s busiest airspace. Eurocontrol said the data-sharing system has started initial operations with 11 military controller and two supervisory positions.
Under the terms of a cooperation agreement Eurocontrol and the Netherlands Ministry of Defense signed earlier this year, the Muac is providing correlated radar and flight-plan data to the RNLAF’s Air Operations Control Station at Nieuw Milligen and seven air bases. The military controllers at Nieuw Milligen use the same system and data as their civil counterparts at the Muac, which is located at Maastricht Aachen Airport. Eurocontrol is also providing the RNLAF with equipment and training for the SAS, or shared air traffic services system, which is considered an enabling project of the Single European Sky effort.
The establishment of this remotely operated “virtual center” hosted within the Muac’s operational system “paves the way for further harmonization in air traffic management” and provides a solution for the “defragmentation” of European airspace as required by Single European Sky regulations, according to Herman Baret, Muac head of ATM strategy and development.
An en route facility, the Muac controls the upper airspace (above 24,500 feet) of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and northwest Germany. More than 1.5 million flights pass through the center’s area of responsibility each year, making it the second busiest ATC facility in Europe by traffic volume, according to Eurocontrol. (The London area control center at Swanwick has a higher volume of traffic.) The region’s lower airspace is managed by the air navigation service providers of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
As of December 14, two RNLAF radar approach control sectors and two arrival sectors, at the Woensdrecht and Gilze Rijen air bases, were switched to the extension of the Muac system under the SAS project, according to Eurocontrol. A third radar approach control sector will be added next March. Full operational capability of RNLAF en route as well as approach and tower control operations is planned for October 2013. The RNLAF’s Pharos and Autotrac ATC systems will then be decommissioned.