FABS: Do you see evidence of a shift by Functional Airspace Blocks away from being simply ‘clubs’ to assuming a more operational function?

Alvaro GammicchiaGammicchia, ECA We still have a long way ahead regarding the implementation of the FABs concept! Not much has changed in the operational reality we experience every day. From the flight deck viewpoint we still perceive very significant differences when changing from one provider to another, even in the same FAB.

There are still different entities when transferring between area control centres (ACC), with different restrictions being applied and still not enough flow of information to allow more efficient routes being flown without a need to coordinate with the next ACC.

There are obviously sovereignty issues but it is mainly money and revenues which are at stake. We know there will be ‘winner’ and ‘losers’ within the ANSP community. This requires a real political will to negotiate a long-term integration road-map and compensation agreements, and, here, there is a big question mark.

Ravenhill, Helios No. That might be unfair to some FABs (particularly Sweden/Denmark) but in general, I feel that FABs have had their day. We need to re-evaluate the policy entirely. One of the strengths of the Single European Sky is the separation of regulator from service provider, but we need to go further and separate member states from their service providers.

An ANSP decision-making process should be focussed entirely on cost-efficient, safe service provision to airspace users and not get mixed up in national, regional and EU politics. The shift in SES2 from FABs being an airspace optimisation issue to one of service provision optimisation has failed.

FAB councils put ANSPs and member states in the same decision-making process; the ANSPs in FABs vary in size and complexity – they do not make good bedfellows for collaboration. For FABs we should go back to SES-1 and place real obligations on member states to have genuine cross-border airspace structures that optimise traffic flows.

For service provision we should take the lead from the industry and provide regulatory support for the emerging industrial partnerships between ANSPs, for example Borealis, to take on more service provision functions and hence reduce fragmentation and cost.

Vojtech StejskalStejskal, ERA Any evidence of FABS shifting from purely economic savings to a common operational view has not materialised.

FABS have received much interest from industrial lobby groups who want to deploy their new technologies within specific FABS which will only increase the technological gaps between European ANSPs.

Moreover, the European SESAR project by its own rules actually supports such activity and does not offer diversity. It is frequently heard that it would be more natural to build local partnerships rather than FABS.

Clinch, SITA Some FABs such as the UK/Ireland FAB are creating operational benefits. The issue with the FAB concept was never that the FABs would not create operational benefits, it was the assumption that imposing alliances between ANSPs managing contiguous airspace would somehow reduce costs instead of just creating bigger quasi monopolies.

The EU Commission should have imposed alliances between ANSPs managing airspace that was not contiguous to create alliances that could have competed against each other to spread into each other’s territory.

Jean-Philippe RamuRamu, NetJets Harmonisation of infrastructure has suffered heavy political resistance. Nevertheless, it is recognised that Europe is over-equipped due to the fragmentation of European airspace.

Through new technologies and harmonisation of practices, there might be a way to rationalise European airspace in a more proportionate way, making the change more politically acceptable. Again, it is important for all operators that the cost-efficiency of the European ATM continues to improve.

Higueras, Ineco In July 2014, the EC formally requested the members of six different FABs to improve as a crucial step towards a more efficient, less costly and less polluting ATM system in Europe.

Those common airspaces have been formally established, although they are not still functional. In other words, they exist only on paper and they should evolve to what is expected from them in operational terms if we want to support the full implementation of the Single European Sky, then reducing the airspace fragmentation along national borders.

However, different levels of progress in implementation should be recognised between the FABs. So, Sweden and Denmark are moving faster than the rest and also the United Kingdom and Ireland are progressing. But when looking at the heart of Europe, at FABEC, which is responsible for most of the traffic, faster progress should be encouraged.

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