European ATC modernisation at risk: ASD

Political uncertainties about financing are raising doubts as to the agreed overhaul of European air traffic management, according to European industry body ASD.
At risk are annual savings of billions of euro and major environmental improvements if European Union countries fail to implement the modernisation of air traffic management (ATM) in Europe.
European policymakers must take the right decisions now, warns the ASD.
“Delays, unnecessary costs and environmental liabilities are the price that Europe currently pays for fragmented and inadequately coordinated air traffic handling,” it says.
It adds that with European air traffic expected to increase dramatically in coming years, this situation is bound to deteriorate without the modernisation programme that is being developed by SESAR – a programme jointly funded by Eurocontrol and the European Commission.
Michael Von Gizycki, Secretary-General of ASD, declared: “It is becoming urgent for Europe to lay the ground for the proper deployment of the breakthrough ATM technologies which are being developed as part of the SESAR programme. The European Commission needs to fire the ‘starting pistol’ and show the air transport community that it will provide the spur required for the success of the SESAR deployment phase. This involves ensuring that the governance and funding of this phase are defined by the end of this year.”
The first milestone related to the EU funding of the SESAR deployment phase (post-2014) is expected by the end of this month, with the imminent presentation of a Communication from the European Commission, and the unveiling on June 29 of the Commission’s proposal for a multi-annual financial framework for the 2014-2020 period.
Final decisions will be made jointly by the Council and the European Parliament by the end of this year.
The SESAR project will:
– Save fuel – an estimated 10 % per flight
– Reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 16 million tonnes per year.
– Reduce delays
– Reduce air traffic management costs by 50% and create an estimated 200,000 high tech jobs in Europe.
– Ensure that Europe can be part of setting standards for the air traffic of the future.
The benefits of SESAR should be seen in the light of a forecast doubling of air traffic in Europe by 2030. The existing air traffic management structure, which is based on national service providers coexisting in all European countries and on technology and concepts from the 1950s, will not be able to handle such an increase in traffic.
Safety is also an issue, according to the ASD. Although European air traffic safety levels are excellent, safety may be affected in the future due to increased traffic, if existing management structures are not modernised and made more efficient.
The total cost of development of a modern ATM system in Europe is put at €30 billion over 15 years, of which civilian air traffic is liable for €23 billion, to be shared by all stakeholders.
The European Commission has calculated annual costs of the existing, ineffective system to be at €4.4 billion each year. Of these costs, €1.4 billion can be attributed to non-optimised flights and €1 billion to delays.