Belgium admits that progress in unifying the airspace of Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland has only been moderate.
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The air traffic control authorities of those nations have come together within the Single European Sky initiative to form what is known as a Functional Airspace Block called FABEC which submitted its 2012-2014 performance plan to the European Commission last June detailing efficiency, capacity, cost saving and delay reduction targets.
“The 2012-2014 performance plan and subsequent plans are the reference that we rely upon,” said Jean-Claude Tintin in the latest Belgocontrol annual report. “We are joining forces to meet the targets set in the area of the environment and flight efficiency by striving to reduce the duration of flights by means of favouring direct flight paths. This, however, requires cooperation with the military and political support. Cooperation with our European colleagues remains for the moment tentative, even if many initiatives were taken.”
Concerning capacity, which is one of the four performance areas of the Single European Sky, Belgocontrol said it succeeded in slashing the average en route delay in its airspace to 0.04 minute per flight (0.21 minute in 2010) – comfortably meeting the FABEC goal of reaching 0.5 minute per flight. “It also overtakes the contribution of Belgocontrol to this FABEC objective, which is 0.15 minute per flight at the end of 2012,” said Tintin.
The punctuality at Brussels Airport improved further; the proportion of aircraft that had a taxi time less than 15 minutes increased to 97.02%, or 2% more than last year and 17% more than the objective in the management contract.
Belgocontrol added that it is ready to meet European performance requirements after successfully completing the compliance tests regarding ‘green landings’ or CDO (Continuous Descent Operations) performed in partnership with Brussels Airlines and Brussels Airport under the name of ‘B3 project’, which was financially supported by the European programme SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research).
Belgocontrol experienced only two incidents of category A (the most severe, such as loss of separation between two aircraft) against five in 2010. The incident rate of both categories A and B is 0.00081% in 2011 and there was thus less than one incident for 100,000 movements as required by the management contract.
Belgocontrol said 2012 looks rather difficult with traffic figures decreasing over the first five months below forecasts and the principle of risk sharing due to replace the system of cost recovery for en route.
“The efforts to reduce costs must be carried on, in particular through the implementation of the Masterplan that reckons on a 15% staff cut, this means 125 persons less, preferably by means of retirements and early retirements. This reorganisation is necessary for the company to continue its activities,” said Tintin.
The Belgocontrol chief pointed out however that the quality of its infrastructure would remain one of its major assets. “We have invested heavily in recent years: a control tower in Brussels, a new control centre (CANAC 2), powerful software … All of our equipment has been renovated. We are therefore well equipped to meet the challenges of the 2012-2014 performance plan and subsequent plans.”